(Corrects figures in paragraphs 2 and 12 to A$)
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE Nov 30 Australia is targeting the oil
and gas industry for a tax review ahead of next year's budget,
in a push to boost revenue after a sharp slump over the past
three years and collect more from multinational giants.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that collections
from the nation's petroleum resource rent tax had halved to
A$800 million ($600 million) since 2013, while revenue from
crude oil excise taxes had more than halved due to a collapse in
oil and gas prices and falling output.
"This is about ensuring sustainability and effectiveness and
efficiency of our tax system. It is actually not primarily about
revenue. It is important these companies pay their fair share
when it comes to these issues," Treasurer Scott Morrison told
The drive comes at a difficult time for the petroleum
industry in Australia, as companies hit by the price slump have
slashed exploration spending and shelved plans for new liquefied
natural gas projects, which will hit tax takings down the track.
Canberra has already been tackling multinationals over
clever accounting and setting up of trading operations offshore
to lower their tax exposure in Australia, and Morrison said the
oil and gas focus is part of that effort.
Australia last targeted the resources industry in 2010, when
then Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proposed a mining super
profits tax at the height of the mining boom. A campaign against
the proposal funded by miners and spirited political opposition
heavily watered down the proposal and contributed to Rudd's
The oil and gas tax review follows a recent audit, which
found that Australia's biggest petroleum operation, the North
West Shelf joint venture, whose owners include Chevron Corp
and Royal Dutch Shell, may have underpaid
royalties by taking ineligible deductions.
Morrison said deduction calculations will be examined as
part of the review.
He has already had preliminary discussions with the oil and
gas industry and companies like Woodside Petroleum,
Australia's biggest independent oil and gas producer, and said
they were willing to work on the issues.
INDUSTRY BACKS REVIEW
Woodside said it would cooperate fully with the review, in
stark contrast to the mining industry's response in 2010.
"The oil and gas industry is under significant financial
pressure from low commodity prices, therefore stability in tax
arrangements is essential for our shareholders to support
investment in uncertain business environments," Woodside said in
an emailed statement.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration
Association called the tax review timely and said the industry
had paid more than A$5 billion in taxes in the 2015 fiscal year,
despite recording its first ever net loss.
"The continued payment of taxes at a time when the industry
is under severe pressure debunks critics' suggestions that the
industry is not somehow paying its way," APPEA Chief Executive
Malcolm Roberts said in a statement.
Morrison said he did not want an updated tax system to kill
off new investment.
Oil and gas company shares fell on Wednesday in tandem with
oil prices, as OPEC looked like it would fail to reach an
agreement to cut production. Woodside was down 2 percent, Santos
fell 1 percent and Beach Energy dropped 3.3
($1 = 1.3387 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)