Twiggy, Ferguson trade racism accusations

The debate over the mining tax has taken an ugly turn, with the Resource Minister Martin Ferguson and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest accusing each other of racism.

Yesterday Forrest headed to Canberra to take up his fight against the new draft legislation for the tax which he says favours BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.

The draft legislation was published for public comment yesterday and proposes a 30 per cent tax on iron ore and coal mining profits.

In what the government has labeled the “improved resource tax arrangements”, mining companies with less than $50 million assessable profits per annum will be excluded from the mining tax.

“The MRRT will provide transferability of deductions,” a Treasury statement says.

But Forrest says multinational mining companies like BHP, Rio and Xstrata will benefit because they assisted in creating the draft legislation, but Australian miners like his Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) would suffer.

Forrest told reporters in Canberra yesterday that the deal struck between the three miners and Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her transition to party leader was done for the wrong reasons, in the midst of the industry campaign against the Resources Super Profits Tax.

“It was rushed with very little thought into existence.

“It was done simply because the new Gillard government needed to put the multinational funded advertising campaign against them to bed," he said.

Yesterday Forrest revealed plans to take his fight to the High Court for being unconstitutional.

He argues that taxes need to be fair between the states.

"I’m prepared to pay whatever tax this great country and its constituents and elected representatives levies against me and my industry,"

"What I will virulently oppose is such a dangerous precedent that will make every dollar of profit more heavily taxed from an Australian and less taxed if you’re a large multinational."

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has hit back at the accusations, saying the MRRT was not designed for any particular company.

"And I must say, I reject the racial overtones of Twiggy Forrest’s comments in terms of the way the government approached this tax," Mr Ferguson told ABC Radio.

"It was not designed to suit the needs of foreign interests, it was designed to suit the needs of the Australian community."

Forrest returned the blow, saying he had noticed the minister had "implied racial overtones".

"If there’s any racism it would be Ferguson being racist against Australians," he said.

"Why would you bring up a tax which protects multinationals and hammers Australians?

“I’m not the one being racist here."

Forrest has accused Ferguson of forgetting about junior miners developing projects in the iron and coal sectors.

"Martin is an old union stalwart, he looks at the world through the eyes of the big balance sheets of BHP and Rio."


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