Billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer has added “slightly unhinged” to the list of descriptives typically association with his name.
His accusation that the CIA, as well as a “foreign power,” are funding the Australian Greens party to cripple the mining industry in his home state of Queensland and undermine the Australian economy.
His statements quickly superseded the news that the Australian Parliament had passed a law imposing 30 per cent tax on iron ore and coal miners’ profits.
The controversial “Minerals Resource Rent Tax” will come into force on July 1. It is expected to generate 11 billion Australian dollars in the first three years, to be redistributed — the government says — to other segments of the economy.
The tax will apply to a group of around 30 companies that makes 75 million Australian dollars in profits annually and which includes global mining majors such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard — whose predecessor lost his job after his own attempt to introduce a similar tax — has promised tax breaks for small business, more infrastructure spending and higher pension contributions.
“We’ve got a spectacular resources boom,” Gillard said in an interview with Channel Nine television today. “It makes sense to take some money from the turbo-charged section of the economy and share it more broadly around the nation and that is what the mining tax does.”
However, opponents of the tax say it unfairly targets the resources sector, where it will cost jobs and drive investment offshore.
Australia’s third biggest iron ore miner Fortescue Metals, meantime, says it is considering a High Court challenge on the basis that it breaches the Constitution, echoing a threat from Palmer himself.
The legal challenges to the constitutionality of the tax reportedly have the backing of Colin Barnett, Premier of Australia’s boom mining state, Western Australia.
“Western Australians and the mining industry are understandably upset because this is basically a tax on Western Australia,” Barnett said. “This tax is discriminatory, it only picks up on iron ore and coal (and) where do you find iron ore and coal? In Western Australia and Queensland. So it’s the other states taxing the mineral states on the false premise they belong to the Commonwealth.”
Back to Palmer, who has been otherwise increasingly outspoken on political decision making in Australia — particularly as it affects extremely rich people profiting from the nation’s mining boom.
Palmer used a press conference Tuesday to launch an extraordinary attack on environmentalists, saying they were being funded by the CIA to undermine Australia’s national economy.
According to the Fairfax press, he pointed to a plan by an Australian anti-coal group to interrupt one of his coal projects as proof.
He said he had a document that showed the group was funded by the US Rockefeller Foundation, the American philanthropic group that he said was a conduit of the CIA and the US government.
“We don’t want domination by a foreign power, and that’s what we’ve got here,” he reportedly said.
Asked what the US agenda was, Palmer said, “I think they want to promote their economies at the expense of ours.”
He denied being a conspiracy theorist, saying:
“You only have to look at this secret budget which was passed by [the US] Congress last year, bigger than our whole national economy … the CIA’s got to ensure that.
“You only have to read the reports to US Congress where the CIA reported to the president that their role was to ensure the US competitive advantage and economic advantages.
“That’s how you know it’s funded by the CIA.”
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