CANBERRA Nov 5 Australia's High Court agreed on
Monday to hear a challenge against a tax on mining profits in
early 2013, as the government stood by its revenue forecasts for
the tax despite a drop in commodities prices due to slower
growth in China.
Mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his Fortescue Metals Group
are leading the High Court challenge against the 30
percent minerals resource rent tax (MRRT), which started on July
1 this year in the face of industry and political opposition.
Australia's third-largest iron ore miner believes the tax is
unconstitutional as only state governments can impose royalties.
The government has said it will strongly defend the tax, and was
careful to ensure the tax was on mining profits and not On
In a directions hearing, High Court Chief Justice Robert
French referred the issue to the court's full bench, with
hearings expected to start in March, 2013.
The tax on iron ore and coal profits was designed by the
government and global miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto
and Xstrata after a brutal political campaign
and warnings it would cripple Australia's resources sector.
In its mid-year budget update in October, the government
forecast the tax would bring in A$2 billion ($2.07 billion) in
the current financial year, down from the A$3 billion May budget
forecast, and raise A$9.1 billion over four years.
But media reports said global miners reported no liability
for the tax in its first three months, while private forecasters
Deloitte Access Economics on Monday said the tax would fall well
short of Treasury's revenue estimates due to lower world
commodity prices and a strong Australian dollar.
"That mix means the MRRT will have a dog of a year -- when
China sneezes, the MRRT was always going to get pneumonia,"
Deloitte Access economist Chris Richardson said.
He said any drop in mining tax revenue would threaten the
government's target of delivering a A$1.1 billion budget surplus
for the financial year to June 30, 2013.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson defended the Treasury forecasts
and said the government would still deliver a surplus budget.
"We take note of the forecast provided by officials and we
stand by those forecasts: we stand by the MYEFO, the Mid-year
Economic and Fiscal Outlook. We're on track for a surplus and
they're the figures that we stand by," Emerson said on Monday.