The Queensland government appears to be choosing its battles based on the whims of influential mining billionaire Clive Palmer, Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has alleged in reaction to the official legal stand of Queensland Premier Campbell Newman on the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) that took effect last week.
In a statement issued today by Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, the state will join will join the legal challenge against the mining tax lodged earlier by Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), questioning the measure's constitutional basis.
"This is a battle that has to happen because there is the potential the MRRT is constitutionally invalid," Mr Bleijie said.
"Taxes must be imposed equally and it can be argued the MRRT is calculated in such a way that it discriminates between states," the Queensland AG added.
"Effectively what Mr. Newman wants to do is to rob the punters and pay Mr. Palmer," Mr. Swan was reported by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) as saying on Monday following Mr. Bleijie's announcement of Queensland's legal challenge.
The Queensland legal move, according to Mr Swan, only betrayed the extent of influence that Mr Palmer enjoys over the LNP state government, noting that the maverick mogul is regarded as one of LNP's bigger if not biggest donors.
It was unfortunate, he added, that Mr Newsman had admitted that Queensland is presently financially challenged but he still opted to spend the state's apparent scarce resources on what the Deputy Prime Minister termed as futile legal experiment.
At the very least, Mr Palmer should finance the whole exercise, Mr Swan said, since "Clive Palmer would be the biggest winner, and countless thousands of Queensland small businesses and households would be the biggest losers."
That is if the challenge proved to be successful, Mr Swan stressed.
"The challenge is futile," Mr Swan said, adding that the tax in its present form has been configured to ward off threats of constitutional and other types of legal questions.
He cited that recent statement of Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett, who conceded that the MRRT stands on "fairly strong grounds."
Mr Barnett's view was supported by constitutional lawyer George Williams, who told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) earlier this year that any legal challenges on the tax would be met by likely difficulties.
"When the commonwealth enacts these pieces of legislation it does so very carefully, with the intention of insulating it against constitutional attack," the legal expert from the University of New South Wales said.
Mr Bleijie insisted that Queensland's legal challenge is justifiable despite the fact that "the state is in a dire financial situation."
"We have to be able to afford it because ... we can't just sit back and let the federal government continue to tax the people of Queensland," The Brisbane Times reported Mr Bleijie as saying.
He noted that by joining the original suit filed by Fortescue, Queensland will only spend a maximum of $300,000 to prosecute its case.
Meanwhile in a statement, a spokesman for Mr Palmer scored the Treasurer for launching "another personal attack which has no substance."
The spokesman clarified too that Mr Palmer is targeting for the abolition of the carbon tax and not the MRRT.
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