PM hails mining tax victory, amid talk of a legal challenge

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared victory in the mining tax debate with the legislation last night clearing its final hurdle in the Senate.

Senior Labor ministers have hit the airwaves with a bounce in their step this morning after the $10.6 billion tax was passed late last night by 38 votes to 32.

But the opposition — who have pledged to repeal the tax if elected — says the legislation will be short lived with Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann predicting the full bench of the High Court would throw out the mining tax if it was challenged, in the same fashion as the ill-fated ''Malaysia solution'' on asylum seekers.

The Greens banded with Labor to ram through the tax despite their protestations that the legislation was too weak and did not go far enough to making miners pay.

The debate in the Senate was robust as the Coalition fought furiously to block the bill's passage with tensions boiling over between Greens leader Bob Brown and Liberal frontbencher Michael Ronaldson.

Senator Brown had criticised advice from the Senate Clerk on the Greens' proposal to extend to tax to gold and uranium prompting Senator Ronaldson to accuse him of being ''a gutless piece of work. You are attacking the person that we have put in here to protect ourselves.''

Senator Cormann said today that he believed a legal challenge to the mining tax was imminent. ''I am confident that will happen soon,'' he said.

Mining magnate Andrew ''Twiggy'' Forrest is expected to announce plans this week to mount a legal challenge to the tax. This will mean that Labor's two headline policies, the carbon tax and the mining tax will be tested in the nation's highest court.

Queensland mining billionaire Clive Palmer will also this week lay out details of his planned legal fight against the carbon tax.

But the Finance Minister Penny Wong said the framework of the bill had been carefully crafted and that she believed it would stand the legal scrutiny.

Ms Gillard conceded that the negotiations over the mining tax had taken a toll, but would not be drawn on commentary that the saga had been a deciding factor in the downfall of former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

''It's certainly been a long battle,'' she said. ''[But] I'm glad we've been able to deliver what really is a fairness measure for Australians around the country.''

Ms Gillard will spend the next week spruiking the message that Australia is going through a remarkable resources boom and ''those minerals'' belong to everyone.

She batted away suggestions that the tax would kill ''the golden goose''.

''We know that we have more than $400 billion of investment in the pipeline,'' she said.

''That's record-breaking any way you want to measure it. It is an incredible development in our nation's history.''

The legislation imposes a 30 per cent tax on the extraordinary profits of coal and iron ore miners and the government plans to use the almost $11 billion it will generate over three years to boost compulsory superannuation contributions, pay for infrastructure and provide a one per cent tax cut for business.

The mining tax will be in force from July 1.

Treasurer Wayne Swan declared it a historic day, describing the tax as ''a measure of great substance''.

Mr Swan angrily denied that the government had negotiated away up to $60 billion in revenue over 10 years by changing its original design of the tax in the wake of a damaging public campaign by the big miners.

''That figure is just grossly inaccurate,'' he said.

The revenue was ''broadly the same, a bit less'' over the budget's forward estimates as the original super profits tax.

But economists and tax experts warn Treasury projections could be at risk from falling commodity prices, the strong dollar and large tax breaks negotiated with the big miners.

The Minerals Council has told The Australian Financial Review that it had never agreed to revenue outcomes or predictions while Mr Forrest's company, Fortescue Metals, estimates it will pay between zero and $20 million annually during the first three years of the tax's operation.

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