The government is attempting to deflect industry and coalition criticism of its proposed mining tax, by labelling Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb “irresponsible” forsaying the impact of the plan on global markets is comparable to the economic crisis in Greece.
Mr Robb has also been compared to his predecessor, Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce, who made a series of gaffes on economic policy when he was opposition finance spokesman.
Stock markets around the globe suffered losses overnight amid fears a $156.58 billion rescue package would not resolve the Greek crisis and that other vulnerable economies would be infected.
Mr Robb said markets had been similarly affected by the federal government’s announcement on Sunday that it planned to introduce a 40 per cent tax on the profits of mining companies.
“We’ve seen overnight world markets affected by this decision,” Mr Robb told Sky News on Wednesday morning.
“It’s up there with what’s happening in Greece can you believe in terms of its reaction on world markets.”
A spokesman for Treasurer Wayne Swan said Mr Robb had proven himself to be as irresponsible as Senator Joyce in terms of his market commentary.
‘Breathless, hysterical commentary’
“This sort of breathless, hysterical commentary was supposed to end when Mr Robb replaced Senator Joyce but sadly it has not,” the spokesman said.
“Mr Robb has proven to be just as irresponsible with his market commentary as Senator Joyce was. He is basically Barnaby without the stains on his tie.”
Mr Robb and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott met with senior executives from BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto at Parliament House in Canberra this morning.
The meeting concluded just after 11am AEST.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who attended a resources industry breakfast in Perth on Wednesday, said mining chiefs had been forthright in putting their concerns to him at dinner in the West Australian capital on Tuesday night.
“I was equally forthright in explaining why it’s necessary for the good people of WA, because there’s a big call here for greater investment in the state’s infrastructure,” he said.
Industry leaders are unhappy with the super-profits tax proposal and say it they will lose investment and that the plan will force projects to be cancelled and cost jobs.
Billions of dollars have been wiped off the value of resource companies since the announcement of the tax proposal on Sunday.
But leading players in the stockmarket including Goldman Sachs JBWere and Macquarie have maintained a buy recommendation for both BHP and Rio.
Suggestions by junior resource company Cape Lambert that the announcement had forced it to cancel exploration activities in Western Australia have also been disputed.
However, Cape Lambert did not make an announcement to the ASX, indicating the mining tax proposal was not expected to have a major impact on the company.