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Fortescue challenges minerals resource rent tax in the High Court

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Fortescue challenges minerals resource rent tax in the High Court

Post by Dirtbikepilot on Mon Jun 25, 2012 5:36 pm

Fortescue, one of the world's largest producers of iron ore, said the new tax would be challenged on constitutional grounds.
"We
believe we have a good case for challenging the MRRT on constitutional
grounds and we look forward to the resolution of these important issues
by the High Court," chief executive Neville Power said in a statement
released to the stock exchange today.
Mr Power said the
Perth-based company has taken legal advice and was challenging the tax
on coal and iron ore production on the grounds that it discriminated
between Australia's states, curtailed state sovereignty and gives
preference to one state over another.
The tax also restricted a state's ability to encourage mining, contrary to the constitution, he said.

Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, Fortescue's chairman, has been a vocal opponent to the MRRT.
Responding
soon after the Fortescue statement, a spokesman for the Federal
Treasurer Mr Wayne Swan said the government believed it would see off
the legal challenge.
“Mr Forrest has made it clear that he is
staunchly opposed to the government delivering the MRRT to help tackle
the patchwork pressures in our economy, which is why we’re giving tax
relief to millions of small businesses, as well as assistance to
cash-constrained households, and by using MRRT revenue to make major
investments in productivity-enhancing infrastructure particularly in the
mining region,” the spokesman said.
“The government is determined
to deliver the MRRT to help tackle these patchwork pressures, deliver
tax relief for millions of small businesses and invest in critical
productivity-enhancing infrastructure.”
Western Australian Premier
Colin Barnett says his government will consider joining
Fortescue's challenge, despite his earlier comments that a challenge to
the federal would have little chance of success.
Mr Barnett, a
vocal critic of the tax which kicks in next month, said the WA
government may become involved in order to protect ownership of the
resource-rich state’s mineral assets.
“We believe there are constitutional grounds for a challenge to the Mineral Resources Rent Tax,” he said in a statement today.
Mr
Barnett said last month he thought a legal bid against the MRRT would
be unsuccessful but indicated the state would still seek to intervene if
the mining industry launched such a move.
``As I have previously
said, I doubt a challenge would succeed and the Liberal-National
government has no plan to mount one,'' he said.
University of NSW law professor George Williams has said the case for a successful challenge is not "particularly strong".
Queensland
Premier Campbell Newman has also acknowledged that legal advice he has
commissioned revealed the federal MRRT legislation was "bullet-proof".
Mr
Newman said last month his Liberal National Party government had
received two separate legal opinions indicating a constitutional
challenge would be futile and he would not "waste taxpayers' money"
opposing the Gillard government's reforms in court.
Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott restated his vow to scrap the mining tax if elected to government.
“If
the Coalition is elected we will abolish this tax. No ifs, no buts, it
will be gone under a Coalition government,” Mr Abbott said today.
When
asked about whether the High Court action had a chance, Mr Abbot
replied: “I’m not a lawyer, I’m an alternative prime minister. I can’t
say what can or should happen in the High Court."
“What I can and must say is that if we are elected we’ll do the right thing by Australia and get rid of this bad tax.”
Those
close to the Fortescue action are hoping that it is heard in the High
Court later this year and decided on early next year, before the federal
election that is due in September or October 2013.
Canberra
relied on the corporations power under the constitution to impose the
mining tax in its original form in May 2010 and believes that this
power, in Section 51 (xx) of the constitution, ensures the tax can
withstand a High Court challenge.
“It’s a bit like a company tax.
It’s entirely constitutional. I’m confident it will survive that
scrutiny,” Mr Swan told the ABC in March when talk first emerged a
court fight.
“The government is very confident here. We’ve received our advice and we’re acting on that advice.”
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