Costello maintains rage as tax fight continues

THE war of words continues in the feud between the State Government and federal Treasurer Peter Costello over Western Australia’s refusal to remove a group of taxes on business. Mr Costello has continued his attack on Premier Geoff Gallop over the issue, most recently urging Western Australian businesses to move to other states. According to reports, Mr Costello said that businesses should migrate from WA so they can enjoy a "stamp-duty free" business environment. WA is not alone, however, with New South Wales also holding out, which has further angered Mr Costello. In a threat to the states, Mr Costello announced earlier this month that the Federal Government would consider withholding $3.6 billion in GST tax revenue payments if they did not commit to abolishing the indirect business taxes. All states and territories excluding WA and NSW have agreed to remove $4.4 billion of the taxes by the 2010 financial year. Meanwhile, Dr Gallop’s office has defended its position over the treasurer’s latest attack. As the premier’s office sees it, Mr Costello is "playing politics with the issue", refusing to acknowledge that the Gallop Government has abolished eight business taxes since the GST was introduced. WA’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has supported the Federal Government in its attack, asking Dr Gallop to remove taxes it sees as "inefficient". CCIWA chief executive John Langoulant said the State Government could not claim poverty on the basis of the strong growth in tax revenue from the booming state economy. He added that the abolition of mortgage duties and stamp duty on rental transactions were "entirely manageable within the state’s current budget plan". The State Treasury has also released figures that reveal the abolition of the taxes would cost WA less than $208 million in revenue, and not more than $500 million as State Treasurer Eric Ripper has previously said. It followed figures that showed the State Government was on track for another budget surplus this year, with Mr Ripper stating that the surplus would be higher than the Treasury’s previous forecast of $498 million. A final budget surplus forecast will be revealed next month when Mr Ripper releases the State Government Budget papers for the coming financial year. Contract win for Immersive LOCALLY based Immersive Technologies has entered into an umbrella agreement with Rio Tinto to purchase a number of advanced equipment simulators. The private company, which was established in 1993, is a provider of operator training simulators to the mining and earth moving industries. The simulators are designed to increase safety and profitability in the industry. The agreement also gives Rio the option of making further purchases across the group. Immersive Technologies executive director Oye Obe said the agreement with Rio made sense from a strategic supply and procurement perspective. He said the company was seeing more mining companies request multiple simulators to meet their expansion needs. Crown-Petra merger gains approval PERTH-BASED Crown Diamonds has confirmed the timetable for its proposed merger with Petra Diamonds, following approvals granted by the necessary authorities. The confirmed timetable has scheduled a meeting of shareholders to consider the offer from Petra, which has its head office in London, on May 25. The enlarged diamond group will own producing diamond mines in South Africa, a joint venture in Sierra Leone and an advanced diamond exploration asset in Angola with BHP Billiton that is currently owned by Petra. Under the deal, Crown shareholders will receive one Petra share for every eight Crown shares. Crown chief executive Johan Dippenaar will head the new group, which will retain Petra’s name.

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