Mr No says yes: Abbott stokes dissent

The Dreyfus Files - The Age

In the excitement over the passage of the carbon price legislation, another obstructionism of Tony Abbott's coalition has been briefly forgotten.

Last week the government introduced the long-awaited Minerals Resource Rent Tax legislation (MRRT). The three biggest payers of the proposed tax, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata are no longer opposed to it. But not Mr Abbott. He wants hugely profitable mining companies, including giant multinationals, to pay less tax. He wants to give a tax break worth billions of dollars to the mining companies. This would be the effect of the repeal of the MRRT, which is what Mr Abbott is promising. And when the tax is abolished, with it will go the new policies the tax will fund.

That's the 1 per cent cut in the company tax rate, the $6500 instant asset tax write off for Australia's 2.7 million small businesses, the increase in the super guarantee from 9 per cent to 12 per cent for about 8.4 million workers, $800 million in concessions for 3.6 million low income earners (2.1 million of them women) and billions of dollars for new roads, bridges and other infrastructure, much of it in resource regions - all of this would go.

At least, that was Mr Abbott's position up until last Friday, when he announced while he would abolish the MRRT, and with it the 1 per cent company tax cut, the $6500 instant tax write off, the concessions for low-paid workers and the infrastructure funding, the super guarantee rise would stay!

It is hard to follow any policy logic, or even political logic, in this opposition. The government has an unequivocal mandate for the MRRT, which we took to the last election in clear terms. But because Mr Abbott's position is to oppose everything, he opposes the MRRT as well. But not all of the benefits the MRRT will bring.

So the position now seems to be that the Coalition wants to give billions of dollars to the huge, super profitable mining companies, and take benefits away from Australian working families, except for the super guarantee boost. Clear?

What Australians now need from Mr Abbott and his gang of wreckers is an explanation of how they are going to pay for the super guarantee boost. And while they are explaining that, they should explain what programs are included in $70 billion in cuts that the Liberals are planning. Is Mr Abbott going to cut the new paid parental leave scheme? Is he going to cut Labor's increase in the child care rebate? Labor's education tax refund? Is he going to abolish the 2009 tax cuts Labor delivered to lower paid workers? Is he going to take away the extra money Labor has given pensioners?

In overruling his Finance Minister Andrew Robb, his deputy Julie Bishop and his frontbench assistant Treasury spokesman Senator Mathias Cormann, who had previously confirmed that the Coalition would abolish the superannuation increase along with the mining tax, Mr Abbott has hit a brick wall. He will be picking up the pieces from the wreckage right through to the next election, because Australians will keep asking him for two things - coherent policy proposals, and an explanation on how he will pay for them.

Of course, Mr Abbott said on national TV you can't believe anything he says, so there's every chance he won't honour his pledge to leave in place the increase in the super guarantee, which of course will mean Australian workers retiring with lower savings while hugely profitable mining companies get a tax break. That's as neat a reflection of Tony Abbott's priorities as you could get.