BHP chairman Nasser says Gov may force miners offshore

The chairman of BHP, Jacques Nasser, yesterday slammed the Government's position on tax and industrial relations, likening the former RSPT to a "nationalising of resources in Australia".

Speaking at the Australian Institute of Company Directors lunch, Nasser accused the government of shortsightedness and creating uncertainty in the industry.

"The tailwind of high commodity prices has contributed to record growth in the sector and the country, and now we have a period where those tailwinds are moderating and we expect further easing over time."

He stated that many governments have responded to increases in short to medium term commodity prices by increasing taxes and royalties – a move which will leave a massive hole in budgets later on as these governments rely too heavily on resources incomes.

While "it is the right of the governments to set the tax regime I can not overstate how the level of uncertainty about Australia's tax system is generating negative investor reaction.

"What we have in Australia is not a perfect system and on a global basis we are at the upper end of the overall taxation levels – that means we are not competitive," Nasser said.

He went on to point to Australia's slide down four places in the "Measure of Global Competitiveness" index by World Economic Forum as an example of the mining tax's impact.

"While governments have the right to make tax and royalty decisions, those decisions have repercussions."

Nasser stated that "given our range of options (globally), if we can’t meet our criteria in any one product, project or geography, we will redirect our capital somewhere else or we simply won't invest at all".

He added that the miner is reconsidering its $80 billion commitment to project expansion in Australia over the next five years, potentially putting its Outer Harbour development in the Pilbara at risk.

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