THE Labor Party will introduce legislation for its mining tax today buoyed by internal polling that shows the vast majority of voters believe average Australians are not benefiting from the minerals boom.
Internal research conducted for the ALP by UMR Research, a full copy of which has been obtained by the Herald, shows 68 per cent believe average Australians are not benefiting from the boom while only 21 per cent think they are.
Despite the mining tax being opposed by the Coalition, there was little difference among types of voters. The poll found 64 per cent of Labor voters, 67 per cent of Coalition voters and 72 per cent of Greens voters agreed that average Australians were not benefiting. So too did 73 per cent of voters in Queensland and 67 per cent in Western Australia, the two largest mining states.
The polling, which canvassed 1000 voters, was conducted in late August, the same week BHP Billiton recorded a $23 billion profit and BlueScope Steel sacked 1400 workers, citing factors fed by the mining boom, including the strong dollar and high input costs.
Sources in both main parties say more recent research reflects similarly strong sentiment for a minerals resources rent tax which is budgeted to raise $11 billion in its first three years to fund tax cuts for corporations and small business, and superannuation increases for workers. ''We believe that the Australian people should get a fair return from the resources they own 100 per cent, which can only be mined once,'' the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, told Parliament yesterday.
With the opposition against it, the government is striving for four crossbench votes in the lower house. Tony Crook is opposed while none of the others has committed yet.
The NSW independent Tony Windsor met the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, last night for negotiations but the meeting ended without resolution.
Mr Windsor and his fellow NSW independent, Rob Oakeshott, are demanding the government crack down on the rapidly expanding coal seam gas industry in return for their support.
Mr Windsor wants between $200 million and $400 million to be allocated from the tax revenue every year and used to fund environmental assessments on the impact of coal seam gas and other mining on water resources and agriculture.
He also wants greater federal powers over the states relating to mining and an immediate end to a stand-off between farmers and Santos near Gunnedah.
Ms Gillard said there would be a briefing today for all federal MPs by the CSIRO on the environmental impact of coal seam gas.
Discussion of coal seam gas dominated the meetings of both the Labor caucus and the Coalition joint party room yesterday.
After the meeting with the independents, the government agreed to a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation, which will report back by November 21.
The Greens who, like Mr Windsor, have their own proposed legislation placing a federal override on the states granting coal seam gas licences, backed Mr Windsor yesterday.
But their leader, Bob Brown, said the Greens would not vote down the tax if the government refused to accept amendments cracking down on coal seam gas because some tax was better than none.