Monday, May 3, 2010

Is Australia about to "Pull a Homer" with its Miner Tax?

There's an episode of the Simpsons titled "Homer Defined" whereby our unlikely, Duff swilling, hero uses eeny, meeny, miney, moe to select the one and only button on his control panel that will avert a core meltdown at the nuclear plant.  To Pull a Homer, the show educated us, means "to succeed despite idiocy."

What follows are philosophical musings, with little to no numbers backup at this time.

What I wonder is if by raising taxes, Australia sends clients and investment overseas to cheaper minerals as a result of cheaper overhead.  During a time when basic materials have risen nicely, and are probably near a short term high (copper, iron, etc.), wouldn't it be convenient for locals to mothball some mines and let the other countries give up their resources on the cheap as prices stabilize?  Population growth, and certainly the raging fires of Chinese societal industrialization will drive demand for basic materials in the long term.  Is Australia potentially maximizing its future by limiting production now?

Upon consideration, three direct negative implications:
  1. Mining as an economic contributor accounts for about 9% of the Australian economy according to Bloomberg.  The profits from the increased taxation of profitable resources are meant to lower other types of corporate and local taxes.  I am on record saying that the developed governments of this world are going the wrong way in driving esoteric and consumerist business at the cost of production/export centric economies, which are more useful, sustainable, and have less beta (if you know what I mean).
  2. As a libertarian I never like to see "these profits are going to that cause" and other like-minded logic.  If the local government isn't seeing enough money from the mines payroll taxes, not a baseline tax-on-profit structure needs to be instituted.  Bottom line:  it's easy to make a company look like shit, but doing so drives the "consulting fees" higher up the employee ladder, not down low where you need it most.
  3. As I understand it, Australia is in somewhat of a tough spot right now with living expenses getting away from Joe Rugby.  This is probably not the best time, or best way, to handle that problem.  Why spook large segments of a regional economy that you have cornered? ... until China can bring more of its own mineral sourcing operations online.
Talk amongst yourselves.