Australia’s democracy destroyed – for thirty pieces of silver

Matthew Stevens, the AFR’s kindly mouthpiece for big miners, is today promoting a range of very bad ideas that suit his, ahem, audience. The article is paywalled from sheer embarrassment.

He lauds the political destruction of WA Nationals’ leader Bernard Grylls for wanting to raise the 25c a tonne royalty on WA iron ore to $5.

Bernard is naughty for hypothecating the royalty revenues to the National Party’s ‘Royalties for Regions’, but he is exactly right to claim some of the windfall gains of resource extractors for the Australian people.

This did not suit the miners and Grylls estimates they spent $5 million to part him from the 20,000 vote Pilbara electorate.

That is $250 per voter!

This (tax-deductible) money was spent by foreign-owned corporations to corrupt a first world democracy.

At what point do we say, ENOUGH! When do we assert sovereignty over our affairs, our national well-being?

WA just elected the McGowan ALP government with one of the most decisive gestures in Australian history. They inherit big debts and empty coffers. The best source of additional revenue to fix this fiscal mess that does not crush the state’s economy is… an iron ore royalty.

Stevens then endorses South Australia’s thought bubble to divert oil and gas royalties to land holders.

This is resource extractors bribing landholders from Consolidated Revenue and can only make Australia poorer.

The rights of land holders vis-à-vis miners were worked out pre-federation and are soundly based, with extensive case-law and precedent judgements.

The Australian Constitution says sub-soil minerals are owned by government on behalf of us all. There is no need to pay land holders more than the just compensation they currently receive.

Elsewhere in today’s AFR is a farmer’s honest response:

“Bill Hunt, who runs a 1,200 hectare cropping and sheep farm near Bordertown in the upper south-east of South Australia, says he’d rather have wind turbines on his property than a well-head extracting gas from deep underground.

“They can shove it.”

He is exactly right. Wind farms pay landholders around $10,000 per turbine per year in lease payments. They pull electricity out of the sky with zero risk of soil and water table contamination or atmospheric pollution.

Matthew Stevens then makes light of the grim reality in the gas market, where Australia’s cheap and abundant energy has been turned into high cost scarcity by a $200 billion mal-investment in giant LNG plants that producers will struggle to fill, just as the world turns away from fossil fuels to cheaper renewables.

Making Australia pay world prices for gas was an explicit objective of the chillers. And government did nothing to stop this destruction of national advantage – the abdication of a core function of government if ever I saw one.

Australia needs to reframe its relationship with global miners and capture some of the economic rents currently spent offshore.

This reconstruction is being played out in Treasury’s Petroleum Resource Rents Tax review. One thing is certain – miners and oilers will fight hard and dirty to keep their unearned increment, up to and including destabilizing Australia.

2 Comments

  1. Chris O’Neill15-03-2017

    “Stevens then endorses South Australia’s thought bubble to divert oil and gas royalties to land holders.”

    Yet another consequence of the privatisation of land ownership. The chance to extract economic rent from the land’s resources.

  2. Kathy Heyne23-03-2017

    I’m not in WA, but am I right in thinking the mining industry ads called the royalty rise proposal a tax and claimed it would destroy jobs?
    When is this idiotic country going to outlaw third party advertising during election campaigns to stop this crap from happening?
    My condolences, Bernard Grylls. Many of us saluted you and wished our states had National Party politicians of your calibre. Please don’t go quietly into the night, keep telling the people how it is, write articles for publications like New Matilda, get your message out. We need politicians with courage.

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