Tax tops miners’ long list

“WE need a horses-for-courses tax system.”

This was just one comment made this week as leaders of major Australian minerals and mining associations reiterated their industry wish-lists for the next term of the Federal Government.

Tax is not the only area of concern, however, with a range of issues including approvals delays, the lack of a definitive energy policy, industry-related technology and training and employee arrangements also highlighted.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief Barry Jones said the energy industry needed a predictable, supportive business environ-ment, and part of that could be provided by fixing the tax system.

Mr Jones said the petroleum resource rent tax did not support gas and greenfields projects and needed to be redesigned to support a competitive industry, from offshore activity through to retailing.

“Australia has huge oil and gas potential but there are huge challenges needing to be addressed,” he said.

Large projects with production timetables of 2005-6 would be making some tight decision-making, now that tackling effective life tax had been deferred until at least February 2002, he said.

Minerals Council of Australia executive director Dick Wells also put tax issues, including effective life-of-project tax, high on his list.

Mr Wells said this was just one of a number of areas on which the MCA had focused its lobbying over recent months.

One very important issue to the industry was the rebate on diesel fuel, and the MCA was pleased it was able to secure this through to July 2002, he said.

Another focus shared by both the MCA and APPEA was the urgent need for a comprehensive energy policy.

The MCA, together with the Australian Mines and Metals Association, had also put to the major political parties their views on employment flexibility. Neither the MCA nor the AMMA wants to see the scrapping of Australian Workplace Agreements, saying it could undo important industrial relations and performance achievements.

The Federal Government also should follow the WA Government’s lead and review approvals processes, including issues faced under the Native Title and Environmental Acts, Mr Jones said.

“The machinery of government is too long. Approvals processes and investment parameters have to be right in order to ensure investment in projects,” he said.

The MCA likewise has expressed concern at the impact of Native Title delays on exploration activity within Australia, something that has been in decline for a number of reasons over the past four years.

Mr Jones also nominated education and training as one of the top three issues facing the oil and gas industries. A ‘smart society’ included attracting bright young minds to science and technology courses that delivered skills and new knowledge to the resources industries, he said.

“A knowledge society doesn’t work unless we’re exploiting the productive resources of this country,” Mr Jones said. “Australia needs to be addressing technical challenges, such as going from gas to liquids. We need technology challenge breakthroughs, but we need to attract students to these areas.”

Late last week the Federal Coalition released its resources and energy policy, promising to: give priority to “settling issues related to the effective life of assets for taxation purposes”; look at amending the Native Title Act with a view to providing “all parties with certainty”; implement recommendations from next year’s Downstream Petroleum Action Agenda report; and review the Gas Pipelines Third Party Access Code.

The Federal Opposition has said it will ban exploration and mining in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, has promised a National Knowledge Nation Summit with input from all industries and has revealed its timetable for Australia’s ratification of an international climate protocol.

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