Stop the Minerals Council agenda for attacks on the people and the environment.
Written by: Nick G. on 15 June 2020
The ruling class constantly discusses its tactics and refines its agenda in preparation for fresh attacks on the people.
Social, economic and climate crises are favoured moments for such reassessments. The Covid-19 pandemic has been one such crisis, with Morrison giving the green light to industry to “lead the way” out of the crisis with new policy frameworks designed to promote growth in the profitability of major foreign and local corporations.
According to its website, the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) offers full membership to “companies directly involved in mining, prospecting or contracting activities relating to the obtaining, concentrating, smelting ore (sic) refining of minerals.” It also offers associate membership to “companies which carry on as their principal business the supply of equipment, materials, services or capital to a company eligible for Full Membership.”
The MCA began its current campaign on May 15 when it released a paper called “Immediate Reform Priorities to Accelerate Economic Recovery”.
Changes to greenfields agreements
Amongst its recommendations were proposed changes to greenfields agreements. The MCA wants greenfields agreements to run for the life of the operation.
Greenfields agreements are those negotiated between an employer and a union before the company has started operations. At this stage there are no workers on site and the company can strike a deal with a preferred union and exclude unions it dislikes. Greenfields agreements run for four years at which stage the workers are free to negotiate a new agreement, hopefully with improved wages and conditions. By seeking to extend greenfields agreements for the life of the company’s operations, the MCA hopes to lock workers out of any future claims based on increases in their productivity and on the company’s profitability.
The MCA is also seeking a waiver allowing a 12-month greenfield agreement to be made without any union involvement. A case of the company conveniently agreeing with itself, since no-one else is involved.
On May 29 CEO Tania Constable expanded on these demands in a press release calling for simplifying awards and improving enterprise bargaining.
Only a simpleton would fail to ask of the MCA “simplify awards” for whom? “Improve” enterprise bargaining for whom? Unless we are very mistaken, these “simplifications” and “improvements” would be for the corporations, not the workers.
Changes to company tax rate
The MCA paper also bleats that “Australia’s company tax rate of 30 per cent is too high and not internationally competitive.” It calls for a reduction of the company tax rate.
Each year for the last five years, the Australian Tax Office, under massive public pressure to tell us what major companies are, or are not, paying in tax, has released an analysis of company tax payments. The company tax rate is set at 30%. Hardly any companies pay that much. They retain any army of accountants to avoid taxes. For each of the five years for which this data is available, more than 300 of the biggest foreign and local corporations have paid not a single cent in tax on earnings in the hundreds of millions, indeed billions, of dollars.
Those that do pay tax manage to minimise their obligations and pay far below the 30% about which the MCA is complaining.
The ten biggest members of the MCA are listed below, with their Australian earnings, tax paid and the rate of tax.
The average tax rate of these leading MCA members is 5.2%. Three paid no tax at all. The MCA, which complains that its members are operating under an internationally uncompetitive tax system, are fleecing the Australian people of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes.
Eliminate red, black and green tape
The MCA wants its members’ projects “fast-tracked” by the elimination of red and green tape. It wants inward and outward investment made easier, it wants the clean energy bodies the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to invest in fossil fuels, and it wants the government to support the development of nuclear energy in Australia.
The MCA pays lip service to “forming partnerships with Indigenous Australians” at the same time as its biggest member company, Rio Tinto, shows its callous disregard for Indigenous culture by blasting to smithereens a cave which records 46,000 years of Indigenous activity.
The MCA boasts about high wages in the mining sector as if such wages have been provided out of the goodness of the corporate heart.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Wages are high in this sector because they have been fought for by generations of working class Australians. They are part compensation for the often remote locations of mining operations, for the destabilising fly-in fly-out and long day shift patterns, and dirty and dangerous work. If wishes were fishes, we’d all swim in this sea.
The MCA has a common agenda with the Australia Industry Group and other peak employer bodies such as the Business Council of Australia and the Property Council.
The government has succeeded in seducing the ACTU into sitting at its table.
Workers must ensure that their own unions stay independent of attempts to buy the unions off, to dampen their efforts to protect wages and conditions and shared community concerns.
Workers should be vigilant and ensure that an independent working class agenda confronts the combined agendas of government and peak employer organisations.