Australian government to ‘re-boot’ mining industry

‘DOWN TO BUSINESS’::The next prime minister, Tony Abbott, may face difficulty in realizing his election commitment to scrap the carbon and mining taxes because he will need Senate approval to push it through, yet he does not have a majority there

Reuters, CANBERRA

Mon, Sep 09, 2013 - Page 15

Australia’s incoming conservative government promised to re-boot a stalled mining boom and revive an appetite for investment yesterday after leader Tony Abbott swept into office on a platform to scrap a mining tax and run a stable administration.

Abbott’s Liberal-National Party coalition ended six years of often turbulent Labor Party rule and three years of minority government, winning a majority of more than 30 seats in the 150-seat parliament in Saturday’s national elections. It was Labor’s worst result since 1934.

“People expect the day after an election an incoming government will be getting down to business. That’s what I’ll be doing today,” Abbott told reporters yesterday.

Abbott, who was backed by media owner Rupert Murdoch and his Australian newspapers, takes office as Australia’s economy adjusts to the end of a mining investment boom, with slowing government revenues and rising unemployment.

Yet Abbott’s finance spokesman Andrew Robb, who may become the trade minister in the new government, said Australia’s economy and mining sector would receive a boost from the election result.

“As of today, the mining boom will be rebooted,” Robb told Australian television, adding Australia had become uncompetitive under the Labor government. “We will restore an appetite for risk and investment.”

Analysts said the victory for Abbott should give him at least two three-year terms in office.

“The only time we’ve ever had a one-term government is during the great depression. There is no real reason to expect they won’t go beyond the three years,” Monash University analyst Nick Economou said.

Despite his solid victory, Abbott’s government will not have a majority in the upper house Senate, where he is likely to face a disparate range of minor parties and independents, with the balance of power votes from July next year. Labor and the Greens will control a Senate majority until July next year.

Abbott will need Senate approval to scrap the carbon and mining taxes, and to implement his landmark paid parental leave scheme which has upset big business and many in his own party.

The influential Business Council of Australia, which represents the nation’s biggest listed companies, urged the Senate to recognize the government’s mandate, but continued to express concerns about the taxpayer-funded leave scheme.

Final Senate results could take several weeks to determine, due to the complex nature of the preferential voting system.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the election was the showing of start-up Palmer United Party, founded just five months ago by colorful mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer, who could win a seat in both the Senate and the lower house.

Palmer, who has interests in nickel, coal and iron ore, also plans to build a giant robot dinosaur park and a replica of the Titanic.