Monday, November 21, 2011

Independent MPs back mining tax

The Federal Government has secured the support of key independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie for its mining tax.

The independents have secured a $200 million program to examine environmental concerns over coal seam gas mining and an increase in the tax threshold from $50 million to $75 million for small companies.

But the passage of the bill is by no means assured.

The Greens, who have threatened to block the legislation if the tax threshold is increased, are insisting the foregone revenue of $20 million a year be made up by other means.

However the support of the independents is a big boost to Julia Gillard's Government, which is trying to get the tax through the Lower House before Parliament rises for the year on Thursday.

It has been buoyed by Labor Party-commissioned research showing 56 per cent of people do not think average Australians are benefiting from the resources boom.

The Government has agreed to a demand by Mr Wilkie to lift the tax threshold at which the tax will apply to $75 million from $50 million and phase in another increase to $125 million.

Mr Wilkie had expressed concerns about how the tax will affect small miners, a concern shared by Western Australian independent Tony Crook.

The Tasmanian MP says 20 to 30 companies will pay the tax when it reaches the $125 million threshold.

"That will go some way to making for a fairer tax for the small mining companies," he said.

"At the end of the day they are the companies that are going to become the big companies."

Mr Wilkie said he was unable to negotiate any change to the depreciation provisions, but accepted the Government had negotiated in good faith.

But Mr Crook says he will not be supporting the tax and argues the Government should consider amendments to protect small miners.

"Some companies may choose to put their projects on the backburner or not proceed at all," he said.

"This will have a massive detrimental affect. There should be every inducement to keep these mining companies going and keeping people employed."

Sticking points
One of Mr Windsor's key sticking points was a commitment that any decisions about coal seam gas projects are based on rigorous scientific evidence.

The Government has agreed to his request.

Greens leader Bob Brown says his party will not budge from its demand that any amendments deliver a revenue-neutral position.

He said it was now up the Government to "get creative" to fund community services that would suffer from the $20 million decrease.

"Twenty million is 200 or 300 nurses or teachers sacked off the payroll. Andrew Wilkie might explain that to the nurses at the Royal Hobart or the teachers at Ogilvie High," Senator Brown told reporters.

"Giving a free $20 million back to the mining industry - and these are corporations turning in a profit of over $100 million a year - isn't something we are going to entertain.

"It's up to them to make this a revenue-neutral arrangement and it's part of a stand we're taking here for average Australians."

Internal friction
Earlier today, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott refused to respond to press reports that some in his party now favour the tax, despite the Coalition’s pledge to repeal the measure if it wins government.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted an unnamed Liberal MP as saying there is a growing view within the Coalition that the tax will be needed to fund the party's promises.

West Australian Liberal Mal Washer has already publicly supported the tax - but says he will not cross the floor to vote with the Government.

Asked twice about the rumblings within his own party, Mr Abbott this morning would only say "this is a bad tax from a bad government".

After the second question, Mr Abbott told reporters to change the subject.

"I've made it very clear what our position on the mining tax is - if there are other issues we want to deal with today, that's great."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Credits Trader: The impact of the carbon price overtakes Australians' main concern, Loan Market online survey reveals

CONSUMER worries about interest rates have been overtaken by concerns about the impact of the carbon orice and utility costs on household finances.

An online survey conducted by mortgage provider Loan Market shows 39 per cent of respondents nominated the carbon tax as their biggest financial concern for 2012, while 30 per cent nominated utility costs.

Of the 484 respondents, 21 per cent said interest rates would have a negative impact, while just 10 per cent said fuel prices.

What costs are hitting you the hardest? Take our Cost of Living survey below.

"Even though it does not come in until July 1 next year, the majority of our respondents cite the carbon tax as their biggest financial concern for 2012,'' Loan Market chief operating officer Dean Rushton said today.

The survey also found Gen-Yers were more concerned about the carbon price, with 51 per cent of respondents in that age group saying it would have the greatest negative impact on their finances.

But consumers were less concerned by interest rate rises, after the Reserve Bank of Australia in November cut the cash rate for the first time in more than two and half years.

"There is no doubt in that they will need to cut further to continue to shore up confidence in the current global environment,'' Mr Rushton said in a statement.

Credits Trader: The impact of the carbon price overtakes Australians' main concern, Loan Market online survey reveals

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Low-income Australian families 'battle energy bills'

LOW-income families are buckling under the strain of rising energy bills, a leading social welfare charity says.

Anglicare Sydney has recorded a sharp increase in the number of people seeking emergency aid to help meet household energy costs, which have risen 17.3 per cent since July.

Low-income families are under the highest pressure, Anglicare's director of advocacy Sue King said in a statement.

"Anglicare Sydney has given out $10,000 more in assistance for energy bills in the first quarter of this financial year compared with the same time last year,'' she continued.

"The increase in the amount of energy assistance distributed directly relates to the increase in electricity prices.''

It comes as the NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman confirmed many customers are now facing financial hardship because of rising energy bills, with a steady stream of complaints about large arrears and disconnections.

Ombudsman Clare Petre revealed there had been an eight per cent increase in complaints from customers facing disconnection during the last financial year.

There was an 18 per cent increase from customers who had been disconnected due to financial hardship.

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