After visiting the QME exhibition at the nearby showground, Abbott paid tribute to the Australian original equipment manufacturers and allied industries that supply the resources industry.
“They are splendid examples of the ingenuity, adaptability and effectiveness of the Australian manufacturing sector,” he said.
“Although mining only represents 8 per cent of GDP, so much rests on it. It makes up 50 per cent of our export income and it is essential to Australia’s future prosperity.
“I appreciate the extraordinary work of the mining industry in Australia. If we didn’t have the miners, and engineers, we wouldn’t have the industry, the payrolls, the government revenue and the prosperity in this country.”
But the Minerals Resource Rent Tax was a still “bad tax”, leaving the Australian mining sector with the highest taxes in the world, he said.
“It is bad in principle because it is so counterproductive and because it singles out one sector of the economy,” he said.
“There was no consultation in the first place.”
Kevin Rudd, for all his faults, was more consultative than Julia Gillard, who hatched the MRRT with Wayne Swan and three of the biggest miners, Abbott said.
“It was the mining fix that wasn’t,” he said.
Even though Abbott promised that he would not give a political speech at the conference, he said the best way to restore the damage of the MRRT was to “get rid of the government”
On the subject of migration, he reiterated his policy of lowering the intake to a more sustainable 170,000 a year despite the skills shortage in the resources industry.
Instead, he would push for employer nominated immigration and greater training of the local workforce.
“We can’t rely on migration to fix the skills shortage,” he said. “We need to do more to train up people in this country.”