MRRT challenge continues

FORTESCUE Metals Group’s High Court challenge of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax will continue today after lawyers for the company reportedly told the court yesterday that the tax breached the constitution.

Kristie Batten

AAP reported that counsel for FMG, David Jackson QC, told the court yesterday that nothing could be done to bring the tax back from the dead.

"It is not revived or quickened by being put through the crematorium of this court," he reportedly said.

FMG is challenging the MRRT on the basis that it discriminates between the states contrary to section 51(ii) of the constitution; curtails state sovereignty contrary to the Melbourne Corporation principle; gives preference to one state over another contrary to section 99 of the constitution; and restricts a state’s ability to encourage mining contrary to section 91 of the constitution.

"It discriminates against the states in that it gives rise to a preference to some states," Jackson reportedly told the court.

One of the most outspoken critics of the MRRT, FMG founder and chairman Andrew Forrest, was not in court for the first day of a case which is expected to run until tomorrow.

It recently emerged that the MRRT raised just $A126 million in its first six months, well short of estimates of up to $2 billion.

Just two weeks ago FMG chief executive Nev Power said the tax was ill-conceived.

“The fact it has not collected any revenue is a good thing,” he said last month.

FMG chief financial officer Stephen Pearce said the company’s expected tax payments for the full financial year would be around $1 billion.

“None of which will be MRRT,” he said.

Pearce said that based on forecasts for iron ore prices, he couldn’t see FMG having to pay MRRT over the next few years.

Despite avoiding the MRRT, Power defended the company tax contributions.

“We will pay in excess of $1 billion,” he said.

“So despite what some of our politicians might have you believe, we are paying our fair share.”