BHP boss urges [Australian] Senate to repeal MRRT (The Australian – July 22, 2014)

The chief of resources giant BHP Billiton has urged Labor and the minor parties to help the Abbott government repeal the mining tax, saying investment is being destroyed by “a lot of antics” in the Senate.

Andrew Mackenzie warned at a business panel that the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) — which his company helped draft — remained a “massive” disincentive to investment flows into Australia.

The MRRT will survive until August 26 at the least after Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators, including from the Palmer United Party (PUP), blocked its repeal last week.

PUP founder and mining magnate Clive Palmer campaigned heavily against the MRRT before the federal election, but his senators joined Labor and the Greens last week to preserve $10 billion in spending linked to it, such as the Schoolkids and income support bonuses.

In what could be regarded as a message to Mr Palmer, Mr Mackenzie said there were “a lot of antics” going on in the Senate around the “highly volatile” MRRT.

“It’s not a big revenue raiser as a tax, which in itself makes it even worse, but it’s a huge disincentive to invest, massive,” he said.

Mr Mackenzie added that for companies such as BHP that sell in volatile commodity markets, “to have your windfall creamed off you the whole time is a massive disincentive”.

“What I would say to the Senate (is) you are destroying huge amounts of potential inward investment that ultimately will pay a lot more in a more stable way.

“A real signal that Australia was open for business would be to get on and abolish the MRRT.”

Telstra chief executive David Thodey urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to push on with his reform agenda.

“They had a very clear mandate after the election. Yes, look, we have an electoral system (that) with the way that our democracy works it is difficult in the Senate, but I would encourage them to keep going,” Mr Thodey said.

Other business leaders at the same event in Sydney — a panel discussion linked to a summit of business leaders ahead of the G20 leaders meeting in November — also said Labor and the minor parties should respect the mandate given to the Coalition at the 2013 election.

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