24/06/2010 - 10:37

Miners welcome new PM's super tax offer

24/06/2010 - 10:37

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BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and the industry's peak body have all agreed to suspend their advertising campaigns against the super profits tax after new Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she'd "open the door" to miners.

Miners welcome new PM's super tax offer

BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and the industry's peak body have all agreed to suspend their advertising campaigns against the super profits tax after new Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she'd "open the door" to miners.

At a media conference at parliament house, Ms Gillard said the government would cancel its ad campaign and called on mining companies to also cancel their ads and end the bitter campaign over the tax.

"I am throwing open the door to the mining industry ... and ask that the mining industry throws open its mind," Ms Gillard said.

In a statement, BHP said "We are encouraged by the comments of new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, that her government will open the doors for negotiation with the objective of achieving consensus."

"The industry has consistently been calling for the government to take the time to properly engage on all aspects of the tax, and we welcome the opportunity to do so.

"In response to the new prime minister's request, we have immediately asked our agencies to suspend all advertising as a sign of good faith," the company said.

"We look forward to working with the government in this new way to find a solution that is in the national interest," it said.

Rio Tinto said in a statement, "As a sign of good faith, we have suspended our advertising,"

"This commitment is, of course, dependent on the government's willingness to properly engage on the threshold issues.

"It is fundamental that the negotiation process ensures any tax reform proposal is not applied retrospectively (and) delivers an effective tax rate that retains Australia's international competitiveness as an investment destination."

Rio Tinto said the prime minister's invitation to begin full engagement on all aspects of tax reform was a positive first step.

"We need to end the uncertainty affecting the Australian economy as soon as possible," the mining giant said.

"The RSPT was flawed policy.

"It has already caused damage to Australia's reputation and the national economy," the company said.

Chief executive of the Australian Mining and Exploration Council Simon Bennison said, "In response to Prime Minister Gillard`s request, and in good faith AMEC has agreed to withdraw its anti mining tax media campaign, subject to immediate resolution of future tax reform as it applies to our industry."

"AMEC requests that the Prime Minister resolves the issue with AMEC as soon as possible".

"Our mind and door has always been open to genuine discussion on tax reform".

"As the peak national body for the mining and minerals exploration sector AMEC now looks forward to meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan and Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson in order to bring this matter to a conclusion and return business and investor confidence", said Mr Bennison.

Western Australia's Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) has called a "ceasefire" in the advertising battle but it hasn't ruled out relaunching the campaign.

The chamber says plan to roll-out print ads and posters in shopping centers have been suspended.

Existing billboard ads in Perth's central business district are also "under urgent review" pending confirmation from Ms Gillard that the government will engage in "genuine consultation" and a "clean slate" for the parameters of discussion, it says.

"Our commitment is very clear that in return for the prime minister's offer of pulling theirs (ads), we won't be expanding ours in any way," CME president Kim Horne told reporters.

Mr Horne did not rule out more ads from the mining sector if talks go bad.

"I don't think it would be sensible to rule out that possibility," he said.

"We're going into negotiations with an open mind."

Fortescue chief executive officer, Andrew Forrest, said Ms Gillard's appointment was a reflection of the concern the Australian community had with various elements of the Rudd Government's handling of policy, and particularly the proposed RSPT.

"Ms Gillard and her new Government have realised that Government policy is best effected through open and honest consultations with the Australian people and industry. This will avoid the potential of the previous strategy that may have derailed the strength of our economy," said Mr Forrest.

"As we had previously declared, the initial structure of the proposed RSPT is dead and buried. We look forward to working with the Government and the mining industry to establish a fairer taxation framework that will encourage continued investment in Australian mining and promote the long term sustainability and international integrity of our world class mining projects," he said.

Ms Gillard said consensus needed to be sought on the tax.

"To reach a consensus we need to do more than consult, we need to negotiate," she said.

"We must end this uncertainty which is not good for this nation."

Asked if there would be a change to the proposed 40 per cent tax rate, Ms Gillard said: "I'm not going to canvass (that) through framework questions here."

"I'm indicating a very clear predisposition to the mining industry about the best way forward," she said.

Ms Gillard's ascension to the prime ministership hopefully represents an opportunity to "start afresh" with the mining industry, according to Atlas Iron managing director David Flanagan.

The iron ore boss, who has been an outspoken critic of the Rudd government's proposed resource super profits tax, said despite Ms Gillard's membership of the so-called "kitchen Cabinet" which devised the tax, the change presented a chance to resolve the impasse over the tax.

"In my dealings with the government, I've seen most of the passion (for the tax) coming out of the prime minister's office," Mr Flanagan told WA Business News.

"So I hope that now there is an opportunity to open up the whole tax.

"I don't expect them (the government) to buckle at the knees but ... change provides an opportunity to look at things afresh."

Mr Flanagan said he had never met with Ms Gillard but had already made preliminary enquiries about making contact.

If she was interested in holding fresh negotiations with the industry, "I'm available", he said.

Queensland mining billionaire Clive Palmer has called on the new prime minister to formally abandon the RSPT.

Mr Palmer, who has been highly critical of the federal government's plans for the new tax, said a mining industry campaign had helped ensure Mr Rudd was dumped as leader.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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