In the time honoured fashion of distributing bouquets and brickbats to worthy recipients, the Institute would like to turn its eye to our neighbours across the Tasman.
We would first like to offer a bouquet following the unveiling in June 2012 by Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke of a plan to create the largest network of marine reserves in the world.1 The reserve network would stretch for 3.1m sq km and includes the entire Coral Sea, which adjoins the Great Barrier Reef. It will increase the number of reserves off the Australian coast from 27 to 60. Prior to this the largest marine reserve in the world had been the 545,000 sq km area established around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.2 The move is being promoted as Australia taking a leadership role in ocean management, with Burke stating ‘We have an incredible opportunity to turn the tide on protection of the oceans and Australia can lead the world in marine protection.’3
Proposed Marine Reserve Areas4
The marine reserve network is being recognised as a major achievement in terms of ocean management. The Institute applauds the efforts of the Australian Government to show leadership in this area and we hope that it provides a timely imperative to New Zealand to move along the Marine Reserves Bill which has been sitting with the select committee since 2002.5 This is especially pertinent given the obvious parallels for New Zealand in this comment from the Australian Government, ‘As a developed nation with a maritime area larger than the continent itself, Australia has a special responsibility for the conservation and management of our marine and coastal environments and our living marine resources.’6
Secondly, we would like to offer a brickbat for an advertisement put forward by the Minerals Council of Australia to pre-empt possible tax rises in the resource sector in the Australian Budget. A full page advertisement in The Weekend Australian highlighted how increasing taxes on mining operations could affect the competitiveness of Australia’s mining industry. The advertisement makes the claim that the Australian mining industry is committed to paying its fair share but already pays 500% more taxes and royalties than 10 years ago. A graph shows the company tax and royalties paid by the mining sector increasing steadily over the decade. However, where this graphic falls down is that it fails to show any relationship between the growth in tax and royalties and the growth in profits for the industry.
A 2009 report by the Australia’s Future Tax System Review Panel, Australia’s future tax system: Report to the Treasurer, highlighted that the total resource tax and royalties as a share of resource profits was in fact steadily declining.
‘The current charging arrangements distort investment and production decisions, thereby lowering the community’s return from its resources. Further, they fail to collect a sufficient return for the community because they are unresponsive to changes in profits, particularly output-based royalties. For example, existing resource taxes and royalties have collected a declining share of the return to resources over the recent period of increasing profitability in the resource sector (see Chart 6.1).’7
The Institute believes that in order for the public to be able to make informed decisions on matters of national importance they need to be engaged in good faith with good information. Information that is distorted or omits important details does not help this cause. The public must be able to ask the tough questions, and for that they need the right data.
And finally, we would like to offer another bouquet to Australia following the passing of the cigarette plain-packaging law. From 1 December all cigarette and tobacco products will have to be sold in plain olive green packets with graphic health warnings and pictures. The law was challenged in the Australian courts at almost every step by Tobacco companies arguing that the law violated intellectual property rights and devalued their trademarks. However, the new law is in line with World Health Organisation recommendations and sets an exacting new precedent that favours the opinion of medical experts.8 A report on smoking produced by the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society found that 17 per cent of male deaths and 14 per cent of female deaths in Australia are due to tobacco.9
The ruling is seen as likely to trigger similar restrictions in countries that have been considering packaging laws, particularly the UK, Canada and New Zealand. New Zealand’s Associate Minister of Health, Tariana Turia, remarked that the ruling gives New Zealand ‘a greater sense of security’ during its own consultation process on plain-packaging laws. She said that ‘This is more than just a victory for the Australian government, I think it is a global victory.’10
- Milman, O (June 14, 2012). Does Australia’s marine reserve plan justify the grand rhetoric? The Guardian. RetrievedAugust 17, 2012 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/14/australia-ocean-protection-marine-reserves
- BBC News (June 14, 2012). Australia to create world’s largest marine reserve. BBC News Asia. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18437040
- Milman, O (June 14, 2012). Does Australia’s marine reserve plan justify the grand rhetoric?
- BBC News (June 14, 2012). Australia to create world’s largest marine reserve.
- New Zealand Parliament (n.d.). Marine Reserves Bill. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Legislation/Bills/9/e/d/00DBHOH_BILL4754_1-Marine-Reserves-Bill.htm
- Australian Government (n.d.). Commonwealth Marine Reserves. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/reserves/index.html
- Australia’s future tax system (2009). Australia’s future tax system: Report to the Treasurer. Retrieved July 23, 2012 from http://taxreview.treasury.gov.au/content/downloads/final_report_part_1/00_AFTS_final_report_consolidated.pdf
- Vrba, S (August 16, 2012). Logos Banned on Australian Cigarette Packages, Graphic Images Will Star. Care2. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from http://www.care2.com/causes/logos-banned-on-australian-cigarette-packages-graphic-images-will-star.html
- Grubel, J (August 15, 2012). Australian court approves tobacco pack logo ban. Reuters. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/15/us-australia-tobacco-idUSBRE87D0PI20120815
- McCombs, D (August 16, 2012). Australian Cigarette-Pack Law Seen Paving Way for Britain, New Zealand (Tokyo). North Jersey. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from http://www.northjersey.com/news/international/166434556_Australia_Cigarette-Pack_Law_Seen_Paving_Way_for_Britain__New_Zealand__Tokyo_.html