On July 13 2010, journalist and radio personality Michael Smith interviewed then newly-ascended prime minister Julia Gillard to discuss “her” new mining tax deal:
“Now, the debate [with the mining companies] got bogged down in a lot of, uh, you know, some name calling, some conversations that lacked respect and good will. What I did as prime minister was got the good will back into that debate by cancelling the ads on TV…”
No doubt Gillard was here referring to her (apparent) post-ascension offer to the Big 3 miners, to cancel the government’s pro-mining tax advertising. She says that she did so as a gesture of “good will”.
In your humble blogger’s opinion, this claim does not pass the sniff test.
Three weeks prior to the Michael Smith interview, the following article appeared in the Australian Financial Review; it was the very day after Rudd’s ousting –
June 25, 2010 – Rio Tinto Ltd says it has suspended its anti-resources super profits tax (RSPT) advertising campaign and is “cautiously encouraged” by Julia Gillard’s pledge to negotiate with the sector.
Ms Gillard, who ascended to the prime ministership after Kevin Rudd declined to contest a leadership ballot, told her first press conference as parliamentary leader she would throw the doors open to negotiate with the mining sector.
She also suspended the government’s pro-RSPT advertising campaign, provided the mining sector shelved its ads against the tax.
BHP Billiton Ltd, the Minerals Council of Australia, the Queensland Resources Council and the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies Inc all pledged to immediately suspend their anti-RSPT ads.
“As a sign of good faith, we have suspended our advertising,” Rio Tinto said in a statement.
“This commitment is, of course, dependent on the government’s willingness to properly engage on the threshold issues.
In other words, their “sign of good faith” was clearly conditional on Gillard playing ball, and renegotiating (ie, “properly engage”) the core elements (“threshold issues”) of the mining tax design.
There is something else quite interesting to consider here.
Apparently it is possible to suspend a multi-million dollar TV and print media advertising campaign within 24 hours. That is the implication from Rio’s statement “we have suspended our advertising” in swift response to new PM Gillard’s supposedly impromptu “good will” gesture.
It gets more interesting when we look at how quickly BHP Billiton, the prime mover in the anti-RSPT campaign, apparently managed to pull their advertising campaign. From ABC News, first posted June 24 2010, 12:32pm AEST:
Gillard, BHP can ads in mining tax truce
Julia Gillard will can the Government’s mining tax ads as one of her first acts as prime minister, and has called on the mining lobby to do the same.
Mining giant BHP Billiton, which is among the companies leading the campaign against the tax, has responded by suspending its ads.
The second biggest, Rio Tinto, followed later in the day…
Sky News is reporting that the mining industry’s main lobby group, the Minerals Council of Australia, is also suspending its advertising campaign.
Barely 2.5 hours prior, the ALP caucus had chosen Gillard to be the new prime minister. BHP was very quick-off-the-mark to suspend their advertising in response to Gillard’s gesture of good will, wouldn’t you say?
There is a Big Question arising out of all of this.
Was there any discussion or deal made with any/all of the Big 3 – particularly BHP – to suspend their advertising prior to Rudd’s knifing by Gillard?
It is an important question.
Because some have claimed that Gillard was “given the nod” by the Big 3 foreign miners to topple Rudd, and have suggested that the issue (promise?) of the withdrawal of their anti-mining tax advertising was already on the table prior to the coup; that Gillard knew the miners would pull their TV advertising before she made the decision to challenge Rudd for the leadership:
JULIA Gillard was “given the nod” by the big three mining companies – Xstrata, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton—to challenge Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership, knowing the advertising campaign against the mining tax “would be pulled”.
… The revelations come from an article written by Mr Rudd’s friend and actor Rhys Muldoon, published in the latest issue of The Monthly magazine. He questions whether “the party backroom boys” could “have sought tacit approval from the miners for a change at the top to seek an end to the damaging impasse” on the tax.
Does anyone seriously believe that BHP Billiton et al only decided to hastily suspend their advertising campaign in response to new PM Gillard’s immediate gesture of “good will”?
Does anyone seriously believe that Gillard and/or the ALP “faceless men” did not come to an agreement with the Big 3 miners on the specific issue of stopping their politically damaging TV advertising, prior to the knifing of the prime minister?
If Gillard knew that BHP was prepared to pull its TV advertising campaign on the condition that the mining tax be negotiated from square 1, then why not tell PM Rudd?
If Gillard knew that BHP – a foreign-owned mining corporation – was prepared to pull its TV advertising campaign on the condition that a democratically-elected PM be removed from office, why not tell PM Rudd?
Why not help the national leader to whom you had repeatedly and publicly declared your loyalty, with devising a strategy to deal with this foreign corporate “threat to democracy”? (Swan’s words, directed at Aussie miners)
Why challenge for the leadership … other than out of sheer greed and selfish opportunism, a preparedness to sell out the best interests of the nation’s citizens (and the very concepts of representative democracy and national sovereignty) for the fulfillment of your own naked ambition?
The widely-propagated story that Julia Gillard, the loyal deputy PM, the Great Negotiator, reluctantly agreed to be elevated to the prime ministership because “a good government has lost its way”, and only then made a brilliant, impromptu gesture of good will towards the Big 3 foreign-owned mining giants by suspending the government’s TV advertising and calling on them to do the same, simply does not pass the sniff test.