The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Nation & World

September 6, 2013

Aussie election starts; opposition poised to win

(Continued)

CANBERRA, Australia —

The 30 percent mining tax on the profits of iron ore and coal miners was designed to cash in on burgeoning profits from a mineral boom fueled by Chinese industrial demand. But the boom was cooling before the tax took effect. The tax was initially forecast to earn the government 3 billion Australian dollars ($2.7 billion) in its first year, but collected only AU$126 million after six months.

Labor is hoping to win votes from its AU$37.4 billion high-speed fiber-optic national broadband network, or NBN, which is being rolled out across the country. Labor bills it as the largest infrastructure project in Australian history.

The opposition promises a cheaper, slower broadband alternative that will cost AU$29 billion and use Australia's existing, aging copper telecommunications network. The opposition's version would deliver only 10 percent of the download speeds of the NBN. But Abbott argues that the true cost of NBN would be more than double Labor's forecast.

The government and opposition also differ on how to curb a growing number of asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat.

Labor has promised that every bona fide refugee who attempts to reach Australia by boat from the policy announcement date of July 19 will be settled on the impoverished South Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea or Nauru.

Labor claimed this week that the policy was already working. Only 1,585 asylum seekers arrived by boat during the month of August, less than half of the 4,236 who arrived in the previous month.

The Liberals have promised new policies requiring the navy to turn asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia, where they launch, and the government to buy back aging fishing boats from Indonesian villagers to prevent them falling into the hands of people smugglers.

Labor has dismissed the boat-buying policy as "crazy." The policy would be a boon to Indonesian boat builders, without denting the number of vessels available to people smugglers among the estimated 750,000 fishing boats in Indonesia.

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