The mining industry has had a royal run from the Australian government. Up until this latest Federal Budget uranium mining companies could deduct the full cost of exploration immediately, or even 150 per cent of the cost of exploration in some cases. Tax breaks on exploration and equipment cost taxpayers more than $1 billion per year.
Now – mining companies will cry poor, as the new budget contains measures to tighten the rules on exploration deductions for miners. Companies will now only be able to deduct genuine exploration spending, rather than writing off the acquisition of a company that acquired mining rights and spent money on exploration. But hey, the Government is sacking more than 100 staff from the federal environment department, staff who help assess mining proposals
But don’t let’s feel too sorry for the uranium, or indeed, any mining corporations. For example BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto pay tax on their fuel, but the government gives nearly all of it back through the Fuel Tax Credits program. Fears the diesel fuel rebates could be targeted again proved unfounded, with no direct changes to the 32 cent rebate.
As Charles Berge wrote (in Sydney Morning Herald May 11, 2010) “And then there are direct government services. Geoscience Australia’s annual budget is $130 million, much of which goes to providing free data and services to the mining industry. The CSIRO and various government research centres chip in another $130 million per year in benefits to the industry. And for the research the miners have to do themselves, they get $160 million back per year in the form of research and development tax concessions.
A billion or two for fuel, … a billion for free pollution and a couple of hundred million for subsidised science . . . pretty soon we’re talking real money.
And that’s before we’ve even begun to talk about government-provided roads, rail, ports, electricity networks and other infrastructure.
Mining is different from most other industries because it directly accesses publicly owned, non-renewable resources. It is appropriate that it pay for this privileged access, over and above its fair share of company tax. In light of the $4 billion to $5 billion in benefits the mining industry receives each year from the Australian taxpayer, the government’s proposed resource rent tax starts to look modest (and anyway, uranium mining was exempt from that tax)…..
So don’t be snowed by the big miners’ shrieks about sovereign risk driving them out of Australia. The biggest risk is that we continue to subsidise mining operations that aren’t paying a fair return for their use of public resources and taxpayer dollars.”