The WA Nationals are sticking with the mining tax policy that cost leader Brendon Grylls his Pilbara seat, saying the proposal was bold and risky but a worthwhile plan to fix the state’s finances.
The 43-year-old took a big gamble when he pushed the plan to increase the 25 cent per tonne iron ore lease rental fee set for BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto in the 1960s to $5/t, saying it would raise $7.2 billion over four years.
Deputy leader Mia Davies, who has retained her Central Wheatbelt seat and is expected to replace Mr Grylls as leader, said the Nationals knew there was a risk he’d lose his seat but still believed the policy had merit.
“We would not have done a single thing differently,” Ms Davies told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“We are bold in our policy decisions no matter the consequences. It was the right policy for the election.”
Mr Grylls also says he has no regrets as he wasn’t “just applying for a job” and was trying to be a policy maker.
“The people that won the election didn’t put a solution forward to the state’s finances – the people that did got their heads chopped off,” he told the broadcaster.
“I’m happier to have tried to put forward the plan and lose than sit quietly in the corner and win.”
He estimates the Chamber of Minerals and Energy spent $5 million on its campaign against the policy, which warned the 20-fold hike would wreck the WA economy and kill jobs.
The unrelenting blitz would have been foreseen given the Minerals Council of Australia’s campaigns against the Rudd and Gillard government’s mining tax, but incurring the wrath of the sector was a risk worth taking in a bid to fix WA’s ailing finances, Ms Davies said.
“It is still a significant issue that you can see big business buying outcomes and controlling elections at a federal and state level,” she said.
Ms Davies said the Nationals were also trying to shore up the continuation of Mr Grylls’ popular Royalties for Regions program, which has seen billions of dollars spent on infrastructure in previously neglected country areas.
Mr Grylls was furious last week when the Liberals said they would use $800 million from the fund to finance regional services currently paid for from the consolidated account like water and buses, if re-elected.
He was further angered the next day when Labor’s financial management plan showed $631 million from the program as a source of capital funding to June 30, 2020, implying the money might be plundered to help pay for projects like Metronet.
“We were absolutely positive that without a new revenue source for the state and without the correction of the GST, the Royalties for Regions fund … would be eyed off by the major political parties as a good way to fund some of their election commitments,” Ms Davies said.