| SYDNEY, Sept 2
SYDNEY, Sept 2 Australia's upper house Senate
voted on Tuesday to scrap a tax on mining industry super
profits, a major victory for conservative Prime Minister Tony
Abbott that has fuelled accusations that he is in the pocket of
global mining giants.
Abbott made abolishing the Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT)
one of the centrepieces of his campaign, but it has been stalled
in the upper house alongside austere budget measures introduced
in May to stave off what he has called a "budget crisis".
Although the repeal of the mining tax follows the successful
scrapping of the controversial carbon tax earlier this year, it
remains to be seen whether they signal a thaw in the hostile
Senate, where his budget remains essentially frozen.
"The government has delivered on our commitment at both the
2010 and 2013 elections to scrap the failed Minerals Resource
Rent Tax," Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias
Cormann said in a joint statement.
"The tax package was so poorly designed, it was in fact
costing the government billions of dollars each year."
The government says the repeal will take net savings
forecast in the budget to more than A$10 billion (US$9.29
billion) over the forward estimates, and passage in the lower
house is seen as a formality when it comes up this week.
But while the repeal should signal a victory for Abbott by
delivering some of the budget savings he promised earlier this
year, it is unlikely to silence a growing chorus of critics who
say he is weakening social and environmental protections.
"Instead of getting a fair share from the big end of town
that can afford to pay, coal mining billionaire Clive Palmer has
done a tricky deal and put the pressure back on workers and
families," opposition Greens Party leader Senator Christine
Milne said in a statement.
"Champagne corks will be popping in mining company
boardrooms while Australian workers will face less money for
Global miners with bases in Australia, such as BHP Billiton
and Rio Tinto have said the tax, and a carbon
tax repealed by the government earlier this year, are out of
step in the aftermath of a decade-long mining boom.
Under the Labor party, Australia slapped the "super profits"
tax on producers of iron ore and coal - Australia's two most
lucrative exports - despite fierce opposition from
industry-funded lobby groups.
Those groups welcomed the repeal, arguing it was necessary
in the light of a global cool-off in metals and coal prices that
has removed much of the wind from the sails of the mining
(1 US dollar = 1.0767 Australian dollar)
(Additional reporting by Jane Wardell in Sydney; Editing by