No need for tax fear: Gillard

Gillard was speaking to a packed room that included Woodside Petroleum chief executive officer Don Voelte, Rio Tinto Iron Ore boss Sam Walsh and Fortescue Metals Group CEO Andrew Forrest as part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia’s Corporate Luncheon.“As we meet today, I think we’re all aware that the airwaves are crowded with discussion, debate and dissension about the Rudd government’s resources super-tax proposal,” she said.“Our future is firmly in our own hands and we need to make the best possible decisions about to shape it. “A passionate debate about shaping that future isn’t a bad thing. Passion means we care intensely. Debate means we are exchanging views. “I don’t think a passionate debate is something we should fear. But I am concerned, as the debate rages, there is fear being generated in some parts of the Western Australian community.”Gillard said she wanted to reassure WA’s business community that there was no need for fear.“In fact, while the debate is energetic and animated, I’d actually detect some key points of agreement,” she said.“First, an emerging consensus that the resource sector can pay more tax. Second, that more tax can be paid while employment in the sector still grows. “And third, and in case it hasn’t been transparent to you, let me add everyone, including every member of the Rudd government, wants to see Western Australia clearly benefit from the proposed new tax arrangements.“While our mineral and energy worth is vast, it’s also finite.”Gillard said the government’s obligation was to use some of the wealth generated to contribute to a stronger economy in the long term, while a third of the package would directly assist the resources sector.Describing the growth of the WA minerals sector as extraordinary, Gillard said she would not stand in the way of further growth.During questions, Walsh described the consultation process with miners as “dysfunctional”, which Gillard refuted.Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder received a round of applause when he likened the RSPT to taking the best football players off the field.Gillard said the point wasn’t to slow down the mining sector but to speed up other sectors to give the economy resilience.Forrest said while economists had described the proposed tax as “elegant”, the fact that the tax credit guaranteeing failure or bankruptcy was seen to be worthless by bankers, surely economists, the prime minister and cabinet must now be seeing the proposal as the “emperor with no clothes”.“What are you going to do about putting some clothes on the emperor?” he asked.Gillard said discussions between miners and the government would continue and she would pass on concerns raised to Treasurer Wayne Swan.

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