This land belongs to you and me…but mostly them.
Photo © 2012 AFP/Mark Graham
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned the mining industry Australians want and deserve a share of the nation's resources boom and reminded its leaders they don't "own" the minerals.
In a speech to a Minerals Council of Australia dinner in Canberra, Ms Gillard said no-one begrudged their hard work and success but ordinary Australians worked hard too.
"And here's the rub," she told the gathering in Parliament House.
"You don't own the minerals."
Ms Gillard's remarks risk reopening old wounds in the industry that fought hard against the Labor's mining and carbon taxes, and has concerns about its workplace relations regime.
But she made it clear the government, which is facing headwinds from a soft global economy, wants growth and to spread the benefits of the mining boom even though "you're not all in love with the language".
"Governments only sell you the right to mine the resource," she said.
"A resource we hold in trust for a sovereign people.
"They own it and they deserve their share."
In the recent federal budget, the government revealed $3.6 billion raised from the 30 per cent minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) would be used for family benefits and support for struggling small businesses, instead of for a corporate tax cut.
Minerals Council of Australia chairman Peter Johnston said he had struggled to understand the current "vehemence" of attacks on the industry.
"I have been a little surprised at the demonisation of our industry, particularly over the last 12 months," Mr Johnston told the gathering.
Mr Johnston said Australia should be concentrating on the need to "grow the pie" rather than engaging in the endless dialogue about redistribution.
"Our governments need to shift gears from spreading the benefits of the boom through higher taxes, ad hoc spending and increased regulation to tackling the real challenges of fiscal sustainability, productivity growth, expanding supply capacity and enhancing the economy's flexibility," he said.
The prime minister acknowledged there were "serious differences of opinion" between the government and industry on some policies.
But few nations managed to turn their mineral wealth into national wealth as well as Australia.
"There's nowhere in the world you'd be better off investing," Ms Gillard said.
"And there's nowhere in the world where mining has a stronger future.
"And this is Australia, and it has a Labor government."
The MRRT and the $23 per tonne carbon emissions tax begin on July 1.
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