MRRT gets over the line

So the mining tax, the MRRT, the Mineral Resources Rent Tax, has finally made its way past the finishing post of the chamber of the House of Representatives.

The handicappers hadn’t been friendly to MRRT initially, which began the season a long way behind opening price favourite RSPT.

RSPT, having been uprooted from the Henry Tax Review by Treasurer Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd, took the punters who had backed Mining Industry by surprise by heading the pack at the first pass of the judge’s tower.


Having not liked the odds on offer before the opening of the race they were very pleased to see it given short shrift as Mining Industry and Junior Sector worked it to the back of the field by the first turn.

Andrew Forrest parked a truck full of voices at one corner of the track to provide encouragement to Junior Sector, one of which belonged to iron ore heiress and self-imposed Greta Garbo-like exile Gina Rinehart.

Unfortunately her message was soon lost as the noise of the crowd, generated by a lot of open-ended discussion on AM Radio airwaves, grew louder.

Mining Industry and Junior Sector hopes rose, however, when K Rudd lost his way on RSPT.

Those hopes were soon dashed as Julia Gillard aboard MRRT stepped into his Prime Ministerial shoes.

Quickly she negotiated an easier passage along the rails in the form of a lower tax on iron ore and coal with the three heavyweights in the field BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.

Again, the lesser fancied runners in Mining Industry and Junior Sector weren’t happy, but this time they found the going a bit more difficult and weren’t able to call the tune as they had earlier in the race.

The two miners’ favourites found an ally of sorts in Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett riding Secession, who decided the best way to head MRRT off, would be to nobble it by raising State Mining Tax Royalties.

As the field raced down the back straight MRRT began to make its move.

It seemed to have a clear enough run until given a few gentle nudges by the independents as a reminder to the Labor Government of Julia Gillard that it wouldn’t be crossing the line without their cooperation.

Tony Windsor riding New England Voter threw up a hurdle by demanding $200 million being set aside over four years for bio-regional assessments on the impact of coal seam gas extraction.

He also added a hazard by asking water to be a vital aspect in CSG approvals under amended environmental laws.

Labor acquiesced to the idea giving the commonwealth the power to override the states on coal seam gas projects.

Windsor’s final obstacle concerned a coal mining project on the Liverpool Plains where Santos has agreed to stop its plans to install a pilot gas well before an independent water study had been carried out on the project.

Rob Oakeshott drew the Steward’s attention with some rough riding on Lynne Likes Me as he raised concerns about inefficient taxation.

Oakeshott was eventually hemmed in by Antony Albanese on Filibuster but not before his requests had been given the thumbs up.

Coming to the final turn it was the chance for Andrew Wilkie as he pulled out the whip on Denison’s Pride to set the pace seeking to make the new levy less onerous for small miners.

Wilkie managed to extract the assurance from the government that it would lift the threshold at which miners become liable for the tax from $50 million to $75 million in profits.

Coming into the straight for the home turn it looked as though Gillard would coast MRRT across the finish line but she didn’t count on the old stager in Greens Leader Bob Brown putting in one final flourish to bring Plain White Envelope home for a photo finish.

The drama didn’t end there with a protest filed by the riders of Mining Industry and Junior Sector claiming Brown had allowed Gillard and MRRT to win after some backroom shenanigans.

A subsequent steward’s inquiry found that the two had in fact squared away a deal to manipulate the result.

Later it emerged the deal was no more than Brown pressing the government to find the millions lost each year due to Wilkie’s  demands by deferring an ambiguous measure involving foreign banks and interest withholding tax.

MRRT completed a victory lap on its way to the stalls to rest up before running the gambit of the Senate early next year.

Studying the developed print of the finish, Tony Abbott declared that neither runner should win and that the entire race should be re-run.