Mining tax speculations ‘adventurous’

Treasury Secretary Ken Henry says speculation of a federal government backdown on its proposed resources super profits tax is adventurous and premature.

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“I haven’t myself come to the view that you seem to have that this particular reform proposal has dim prospects,” he said in response to a journalists’ question at a taxation conference in Sydney on Monday.

“I don’t see it that way yet at all.

“I think it is an adventurous premise, quite a speculative premise.”

Dr Henry headed the review that recommended the new tax regime on the resources industry, and has previously rejected claims from some mining executives that it will hurt the local industry.

The treasury boss said he wasn’t surprised by the vigour of the debate between the government and mining companies.

He said the tax had a long way to go before implementation.

“What I am witnessing at the moment is not surprising. It doesn’t surprise me in the least,” Dr Henry said.

“This particular tax policy proposal is still two years away from commencement.

“There is still quite a journey ahead of us before this particular tax is scheduled to start.”

Asked if the vocal opposition to the proposal had caused him personal grief, Dr Henry said his scar tissue had been hardened over a 25-year career with treasury.

He also issued a plea for economists to aid the implementation of major tax reforms by seeking to reach consensus viewpoints.

Dr Henry said the contest of ideas was important for economists, particularly academics, but that had hampered the political debate on reform in the past, particularly on the former carbon pollution reduction scheme.

“Even with that idea, which most academic economists would have accepted I’m sure, at least behind closed doors, was a sound policy idea, there were no end of academic economists that wanted to say `it’s not bad, but I’ve got a better one’,” he said.

“The way in which political debate occurs, such a statement does enormous damage to the chances of sensible reform.

“So there are times when I think it would … serve the national interest if we economists, particularly academic economists, could just call a halt to the war for a while.”