Greens to back “inadequate” minerals tax

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says he will back the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) even though he believes it falls “way short of the mark”.

Liberal frontbencher Eric Abetz says the tax goes too far and will be to the “long-term detriment of the Australian economy”.

The Greens will bring a raft of amendments to the Senate today, but none are expected to pass because Labor and the Coalition are likely to oppose the changes.

“There are some really important amendments to this tax which would make it better for all concerned if the opposition were to join the Greens in supporting those amendments,” Senator Brown told reporters in Canberra.

“A primary one is the pretty daft part of this legislation which says that the Commonwealth will refund increases in state royalties to the mining companies involved.

Brown said the Greens would vote for what he saw and an inadequate tax “because the alternative is to raise nothing”.

“The challenge is (also) to Tony Abbott’s opposition. Here is your opportunity to reduce your $70 billion [budget] black hole,” he said.

The Greens want the MRRT to be set at 40%, as proposed by the Henry Tax Review. The party claims the current tax rate on iron ore and coal, negotiated by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is effectively about 22.5%.

The Greens also want the MRRT to cover gold, silver, diamonds, uranium, rare earths, nickel, copper, zinc and bauxite, with a proportion of the revenue raised to be placed in a sovereign wealth fund.

Gillard says the government will not be making any changes. “We will bring the legislation to parliament exactly as we outlined,” she said.

Senator Brown said the government’s decision to back a Greens plan to provide regular updates on mining tax revenues would help all parties to design their budgets and add up the cost of their 2013 election promises.

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