$6B commodity boost fills MRRT budget hole

BETTER commodity prices will add $6 billion to the federal government's bottom line under the new mineral resource rent tax, with federal Treasurer Wayne Swan admitting yesterday that Treasury had underestimated the likely tax take from the old resources super-profits tax by almost half in its initial projections.
$6B commodity boost fills MRRT budget hole $6B commodity boost fills MRRT budget hole $6B commodity boost fills MRRT budget hole $6B commodity boost fills MRRT budget hole $6B commodity boost fills MRRT budget hole

Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Nick Evans

The government released revised economic modelling today, backing its claims the MRRT will raise $10.5 billion over the forward estimates period.


The figures are based on new commodity price modelling prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, though those have not yet been separately released.


To meet Treasury revenue projections, however, Australia’s mining sector will have to help deliver the best terms of trade on record over the coming year.


Swan told journalists today the concessions won by the mining industry would have cost it $7.5 billion, rather than $1.5 billion, without the new commodity price projections.


He reportedly said the initial RSPT, using the updated commodity assumptions, would have reaped $24 billion – twice the amount forecast in the May budget.


That confirms suggestions, reported in ILN’s sister publication MiningNews.net when the revised deal was announced on July 2, that the government had seriously underestimated the likely tax take from the original RSPT.


In the revised economic statement released today, Treasury forecast Australia’s terms of trade to improve by 17% in 2010-11, to record levels, with nominal GDP to grow by 9.25% in the year.


That will soften as commodity prices drop in the following years though, according to the projections, dropping 3.75% from the record highs in 2011-12 and a further 4.75% the following year.


Business investment will also grow strongly over the next two years, by 17% in 2010-11 and 20% in 2011-12.


Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb has launched a pre-emptive attack on the figures before their release, though, telling ABC radio this morning that the new figures would be a “sham”, whatever they eventually said.


“You know, we’ve spent now several weeks since they’ve finalised this tax and it’s just been a bunch of spin, no detail, [the] treasurer’s gone into hiding for two weeks to, I think, avoid the scrutiny,” he said.


“Clearly from what we can see, it is a sham, the estimated revenue, the head of BHP [Billiton] yesterday basically confirming that they will pay little more than $300 million in the first two years per year.


“Well that means the prospect of getting $10.5 billion is just not on. I mean, they’d be lucky to get a billion dollars out of tax from this new tax which puts a great big cloud over the whole forecasts, the suggestion that they will get into surplus.”


The new budget estimates are based partly on new ABARE modelling, and also on estimates provided by the big three miners – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – about their expectations over the coming years, with Treasury secretary Ken Henry saying yesterday that his department relied on those estimates to project the $10.5 billion tax take for the MRRT.