Rudd takes command of mining tax talks


But there remains deep concern inside Labor that the row over the mining tax is preventing the government from talking about its key messages and there has been growing internal pressure on Mr Rudd to shut it down.

It is understood the Prime Minister has heeded the message and resolved over the weekend to personally negotiate with the miners from now on with a view to reaching a settlement. Mr Rudd has met senior executives over the past week but the industry is still complaining there is no proper negotiation process. Mr Rudd is not prepared to put a timeline on talks but hopes his direct intervention will quieten the issue.

Today there will be some welcome news for the government with a coalition of lobby groups to support the tax.

The Australian Council of Social Service, the ACTU, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Consumers’ Federation will say mining tax reform is essential to improve fairness and efficiency in the tax system and strengthen the economy.

They said it was time the voices of ordinary Australians were heard in a debate dominated so far by ”powerful vested mining interests”. One minister noted drily unless the groups could kick in $50 million for advertisements, it was unlikely the miners would be drowned out.

Inside Labor, there is no palpable desire to topple Mr Rudd. ”Any suggestions there’s going to be a leadership challenge is bullshit,” one minister said.

”This tax thing is sucking the oxygen from us. You get the tax sorted and you can get on with a positive agenda. The voters don’t like [Tony] Abbott, but he’s not being forced to say anything and the mining industry is over-egging its claims.”

Another minister said it ”would be crazy” to change leaders at this late stage. ”We just have to regain our confidence and plough on.”

Parliamentary sittings are ripe occasions for leadership challenges, especially in the wake of bad polls. There was some relief in upper circles of government with the realisation that Newspoll, usually published fortnightly, had been postponed until next week because of the long weekend. This will buy Mr Rudd valuable breathing space.

The Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, hit back yesterday at Keith De Lacy, a former Queensland Labor treasurer and coalmining executive who demanded Mr Rudd’s ousting. Mr Albanese dismissed Mr De Lacy as an ”alleged treasurer of Queensland sometime last century”.

”I mean for goodness sake, people need to get serious,” he told the Ten Network. ”The fact is our Prime Minister is the one leader of the advanced world who negotiated successfully through the global financial crisis.”

The Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, said Mr Rudd would be the leader at the election.

The government also hit out at the Greens, the party benefiting directly from Labor’s drop in support. Mr Albanese attacked the Greens for voting with the Liberals to defeat the emissions trading scheme because the Greens felt it was too generous to polluters.

Mr Albanese said it was like the republicans who voted against the republic because they did not like the model. ”We are still celebrating the Queen’s Birthday this weekend with the Queen of England as our head of state,” he said. ”Purity in politics sometimes leads to very bad outcomes.”