With The Australian steadily morphing onto a right-wing version of The Onion, offering ever more strident attacks on its growing array of enemies, accuracy about its opponents is in increasingly short supply, especially when it comes to the RSPT.

Even so, today’s effort from Matthew Stevens is particularly impressive. Stevens, married to BHP-Billiton corporate spinner Sam Evans, breathlessly told The Oz’s business readership under a headline “Steelmaker says it was excluded from tax talks”:

The Rudd government twice rejected requests from steelmaker and iron ore miner OneSteel to join the super-profits tax consultation process to complain about the threat the proposed regime poses to the future of its South Australian steelworks.

Stevens scolded the government for its unwillingness to consult with OneSteel, which was “rebuffed by the bureaucracy. At that point OneSteel chief executive Geoff Plummer was forced to turn to an external lobbyist to represent his company’s interests to the Treasurer’s office.” Stevens then offered an egregious and lengthy history of OneSteel (year 12 commerce students can cut out and keep it).

So … did OneSteel actually meet with the tax consultation panel or not? “In the end,” says Stevens, “it seems it may have taken direct, and understandably animated, intervention by South Australian Premier Mike Rann to get OneSteel into the Rudd government’s dubious consultation process.”

So, erm, the steelmaker wasn’t excluded from the talks at all?

In fact, OneSteel was never knocked back. The process is that companies meet with the the consultation panel secretariat first before meeting directly with the panel. But on  May 18, before OneSteel had met with the secretariat, the panel asked to meet OneSteel, and met with Plummer and three of his senior executives, in Sydney. OneSteel was 10th cab off the rank in the consultation process, and if anything might have got privileged access. The panel met with Plummer again last Monday in Canberra. OneSteel executives also met with the secretariat on May 26. Treasury officials also met with a OneSteel representative in Adelaide last Thursday as part of talks with the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy.

That’s three meetings, plus another one at a broader consultation. As an integrated manufacturer, OneSteel has particular concerns about the taxation point of the RSPT and its impact on its downstream activities. That’s exactly why the panel was particularly keen to hear from them.

Some exclusion.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey