The Queensland government’s changes to land tax rules, removing a loophole used by interstate investors, have been met with an almost hysterical response.
After being criticized by the real estate industry, politicians and some media outlets are now calling the measures a “tenants’ tax.” This is despite the fact that some of the country’s leading economists and housing market experts have questioned the central claim of the ongoing campaign: that it would exacerbate the housing crisis.
For those with a real interest in dealing with chronic homelessness and housing affordability, the idea that homeowners with multiple properties and interstate portfolios are portrayed as benevolent providers of a public service is galling.
But you haven’t seen anything yet. Queensland coal miners are not far behind.
Some of the state’s largest mining companies, backed by the mining lobby, are within a couple of weeks of launching an ad campaign calling on the state to scale back its new coal royalty regime, which kicks in when companies start getting extraordinary earnings.
To put that in context, the Whitehaven Coal Company estimated that royalty changes would reduce the net present value of its planned South Winchester coal mine, which is a few years from being operational. by about 3%.
Last fiscal year, Whitehaven’s Earnings on coal exports increased by about 1,400%.
Queensland taxpayers own the coal. We allow coal companies to mine and export the resource, and they get paid on the back end through royalties. What good capitalist among us wouldn’t demand more for a product we own if middlemen suddenly made massive profits?
The mining lobby has framed its opposition to the royalty change as if it would discourage future investment in Queensland.
Tim Buckley, managing director of Climate Energy Finance, says the impact of rising royalties is equivalent to “a rounding error,” and the idea of coal companies holding back investment on that basis is “a hollow threat.” “.
What is critical in both cases, the owners and the miners, is that they are ultimately pushing for what is in their financial interest. But their campaigns cloak self-interest in ways designed to convince people that it somehow benefits all of us when homeowners pay less taxes and multinational corporations pocket their superprofits.
The Queensland government appears to be adamant against pushback, but the Labor Party has previously dismissed progressive politics in a bid to prevent vested interests and the media from screeching.
In its early years, Palaszczuk’s government earned a reputation for “checking, not doing”. His political success has been based on reform at a snail’s pace and charting a central course. But the cost of that approach is that, after more than seven years, many people still don’t know what Labor really stands for in Queensland.
The Greens’ victories in federal elections inside Brisbane show that charting a central course in Queensland could be increasingly difficult for Palaszczuk and Labour. These victories were backed by the mobilization of an aspiring class of tenants and young people who want to radically change a real estate market that already heavily favors investors.
How Labor responds to the housing crisis, and whether it bows to pressure from powerful vested interests, will be a test of whether it is a government of principle or policy.
The same can be said of whether Queensland stands firm against the miners.
The history of such campaigns (think Adani’s federal election intervention in 2019 or ads opposing the federal mineral resource rent tax in 2010) is discouraging.
But this is the world after the 2022 election, where the Greens and Teals were elected in record numbers, and voters have made it clear that there is another side to the ledger. Withdraw now from modest proposals, which may not go far enough to fix the structural problems, and Labor could find itself in no man’s land, occupying shrinking center ground.
The final test looming is the Queensland government’s energy plan, due to be released next week. Palaszczuk has heralded a big climate announcement, and energy minister Mick de Brenni has also hinted at plans for a massive renewables building program.
wwf australia Analysis of Queensland emission targets makes clear that the state must dramatically raise its ambition to meet the Paris climate goals.
That would mean dealing with the elephant in the room and making plans to cut power to coal ahead of schedule.
Of course, in Queensland, such a move would trigger the same old scare campaigns from the usual suspects.
It all depends on whether the government is finally ready to fight.