Brendon Grylls’ radical election policy of hitting BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto with a new mining tax has almost 50 per cent more supporters than detractors, polling by The West Australian reveals.
The survey of more than 1700 West Australian voters across the State by ReachTEL on Thursday night recorded support for the policy at 45.4 per cent, with 31.5 per cent opposed and 23.1 per cent undecided.
Mr Grylls last month staked his return to the Nationals leadership and the party’s electoral fortunes next year on an ambitious plan to increase the per-tonne production rental paid by the mining giants from 25¢ to $5.
The policy has been criticised as a job-destroying, confidence-sapping sovereign risk by the Nationals’ alliance partners the Liberal Party, as well as Labor and the mining lobby.
Mr Grylls argues that in the absence of a firm plan to address WA’s dismal GST share, the State will need a hefty new revenue source to avoid big cuts to government programs or taxing “mums, dads and pensioners” to return the Budget to surplus.
BHP has warned its employees that the policy puts their jobs at risk. Rio Tinto has ranked it the company’s No.1 global risk.
The companies’ concern is likely to be deepened by today’s poll, which shows particularly big support from males (52.1 per cent) and young voters aged 18 to 34 (50.9 per cent in favour).
The survey did not break down support across country electorates, which are contested by the Nationals, and city electorates, which are not.
But it makes for intriguing reading across political lines.
Only the Liberal Party has more detractors than supporters for the mining tax.
And there is significant enthusiasm for the policy among Labor (48.3 per cent support, 26.9 per cent opposed) and Greens voters (60 per cent support, 12.8 per cent opposed).
In contrast to their bases’ leanings, Labor leader Mark McGowan has categorically ruled out supporting the plan and Premier Colin Barnett — notwithstanding his criticism — has refused to declare the policy a deal-breaker in any future alliance with the Nationals.
Mr Grylls said the figures reflected a strong sentiment in favour of the argument that “if mums and dads have to pay more, then the mining sector should, too”.
“The sentiment coming back to me is extremely positive, not a little bit positive,” he said.
Mr Grylls was not unhappy to see strongest support flowing from left-of-centre voters.
“It’s the middle ground of the electorate that decides elections,” he said.
“It has not polarised Liberal or Labor voters. You can have enormous influence if you can find ways for them to support you.”
The West Australian, September 20, 2016: