View from The Hill

Rudd puts Gillard and Swan in his sights over the mining tax

There’s no certainty how Kevin Rudd’s play will end. AAP/Alan Porritt

Kevin Rudd has elevated the temperature surrounding Labor’s leadership by buying into the row over the government’s controversial mining tax.

With Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan under attack about the failure of the tax to yield any significant revenue, Rudd sheeted home the blame for the whole fiasco to them.

The tax, it must be remembered, helped destroy his leadership, when the mining industry ran a massive campaign against the original version. He is highly passionate about the whole episode.

Rudd told Sky News the origin of the tax came from the Henry Review, established by the Treasurer, and Swan had “brought it to the relevant ministers… including then Deputy Prime Minister [Gillard] and myself.” They had supported the Treasurer’s decision to go forward with his proposal.

“Of course after the government’s leadership change, the Treasurer and the new Prime Minister elected to make some significant changes to the structure of the tax,” Rudd said.

He said – pointedly - that he was “unfamiliar” with what undertakings the pair had provided to the mining industry at the time. Quizzed on whether Gillard and Swan had given away too much to the miners – the tax was much watered down - Rudd said “history will be the judge of that.”

Any future changes were a matter for Gillard and Swan he said, while defending a robust tax.

Asked whether the government should be afraid of taking on the miners again, Rudd declared: “No government should ever take a backwards step in pursuit of the national interest.”

In Parliament the mining tax was again the issue of the day, with the government saying it would not alter it, beyond its current negotiations with the states to try to fix the loophole which forces Canberra to reimburse companies when state governments put up royalties.

The PM slipped up during question time, when she wrongly attributed comments to businessman Don Argus’s review (rather than to an another review), and was forced to clarify. For her critics, it’s just another example of how accident-prone she is in these first weeks of election year.

Rudd told Sky the government could win the election and “could win under the Prime Minister’s leadership”, and later Rudd forces hosed down the politics of the interview, saying that it had been done to mark the anniversary of the national apology and the mining tax had only been a part of it. Indeed Rudd’s provocative public intervention came as a surprise to some of his backers. But he was happy enough to expound on his views about the mining tax when he left the ABC office in the press gallery after doing another interview.

Around caucus, the Sky appearance was seen as Rudd again stepping up the pressure on Gillard, and Labor sources said the atmosphere in ALP ranks is presently less stable than earlier this year.

2013 started with a general consensus that the Rudd leadership push had faded. But a series of mistakes and events has changed the dynamics and thrown more doubt over Gillard’s position.

Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is personally close to Rudd, pointed Coalition MPs’ attention to the next parliamentary sitting week after this one. “Circle the ides of March in your diary, where chaos, history, a full moon and pandemonium will coincide,” she said.

As each week passes, time runs out for Kevin Rudd, and there is less certainty about how his play will end.

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