Originally posted on http://www.thepunch.com.au
In May, Kevin Rudd announced the super-profits mining tax – which, after the shelving of the ETS and back flip on climate change – seemed to put the final nail in Rudd’s political coffin. PM Julia Gillard inherited this fiasco; but with a quick side step and gestures of reconciliation and camaraderie, she’s managed to get both government and miners beating their drums to a far less war-like rhythm.
The mining tax was announced in response to the Henry Tax Review, and was intended to provide a more equitable distribution of the wealth derived from Australia’s (limited) natural resources. A 40% tax on mining super profits would also provide a surplus of $2.5 billion and could be used to invest in a more sustainable, renewable energy industry (… one can dream).
All in all, the mining tax had a rather alluring Robin Hood-esque tinge. Indeed, it had all the fairy-tale spin that one might think would woo working voters’ support. Take money from the wealthy who are leaching off the limited supply of natural resources in our soil, and give it back to the workers’ who have toiled upon that land.
Instead, it was met with the age-old protests that the Australian economy would go bust and work would be sent offshore.
And so an amazing spin-doctored debacle unfolded as a tax attack was waged between Government and the mining industry; and the question was posed as to how deep the mining companies would dig into their pockets, and how much tax-payers’ money the Government would swindle.
The Government launched a $38 million dollar ad campaign in response to what it deemed a situation of extreme urgency – the (very real) risk that the mining industry would launch a far-reaching and compelling campaign of its own. And that it did, with both Government and Mining ads appearing in newspapers, on the telly and in our mailboxes. Dollar bills fluttered in the wind like confetti as the absurd duel played out between the heavy weights – it would be absurd if it wasn’t so damn expensive.
And so damn costly for Rudd’s political career.
It would be wrong to say that the mining tax was Rudd’s downfall. But off the back of blundering through school halls and installation shambles, and following the massive drop in popularity after the ETS bungle; the mining tax was the policy that broke the pollie’s back (so to speak).
No amount of diplomatic word-smithery could restore Rudd to the hope-inspiring, Chinese-speaking beacon of possibilities that he was in 2007.
Gillard, however, is a clean slate of straight-talking, workers-first, Australian-families kinda lingo. She back-pedalled hard to “get Labour back on track” (and back-pedalled hard on the first assertive policy to potentially address some of the environmental ravage we’re inflicting upon our limited resources). She threw open the government’s door to the miners and in return asked that the mining industry “throw open its mind”.
Honestly though, how far open can the mind of big business be thrown, Gillard? It’s their prerogative (and rightly so) to keep their eye on the dollar and whittle down any obstacles to the acquisition of profit – most certainly a great big 40% sized obstacle.
With the impending announcement of an early election, it’s like a peace treaty on speed with the warring factions due to be appeased by Friday.
It sits a bit uneasily – this talk of “meaningful negotiations” and getting the party “back on track”; all within a convenient deadline of two days time, and to the tune of our “land abound in Nature’s gifts”… so long as they hold out until after the election.
We’ve seen Rudd’s dexterity in action when he back-flipped over climate change. It seems that a little of his limber has rubbed off on Gillard as she leaps from championing community consensus on a carbon tax, to welcoming the mining industry with open arms. It’s difficult to know what the hell anyone is fighting for.
Don’t get too giddy, Gillard; or your opposition will start running rings around you too.