Thursday, May 6, 2010

What’s the dictionary definition of “stuff up”?

Today was an instructive day for students of Australian political reportage, that has been mentioned quite nicely as well over on Possum’s page – excuse the second link in two days) (and elsewhere):

This morning's headline in The Australian:

Rio Tinto shelves billions in projects

  • Andrew Burrell and Dennis Shanahan
  • May 06, 2010 12.00am

MINING giant Rio Tinto has shelved plans to spend $11 billion expanding its massive iron ore operations in Western Australia because of the wave of uncertainty sparked by the Rudd government's proposed tax on super profits.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty bloody definitive to me. Not much grey area there. There certainly wasn’t in my mind when I read it this morning when I (unusually) bought The Australian. But I wondered just how “definitive” it was, given the statements made in the previous days by mining executives, who are pretty transparently lobbying.

Then this afternoon came an announcement by Rio Tinto to the Australian Stock Exchange:

Rio Tinto has confirmed today that no decision has been made to shelve any projects in Australia following the announcement by the Federal Government of the proposed Resources Super Profits Tax (RSPT).

Rio Tinto is reviewing the potential impact of the proposed RSPT on all its operations and new projects in Australian.

The feasibility study into the proposed the 330mtpa expansion of Rio Tinto’s  iron ore operations in Western Australia is continuing as previously announced. 

Rip Tinto however is unable to determine the impact of any RSPT on the 33omtpa expansion study until the details of the Government’s proposal become clearer.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that is as definitive as it gets (statements to the ASX usually are – the stock exchange isn’t one for allowing companies to use fudge words).

So how did The Australian respond? Well they put this article out this afternoon (and no this is not a joke):

Rio Tinto reaffirms reviewing iron ore projects

  • Sarah-Jane Tasker
  • May 06, 2010 1:38PM

In an announcement to the Australia Securities Exchange today, Rio said there had been no final decision by its board to "shelve" any projects in Australia following the announcement of the government's proposed new mining tax.

In the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, the word shelve is defined as to "put aside, esp(ecially) temporarily".

Yes, they actually used a dictionary definition to justify themselves (quite possibly a first in Australian journalism). Perhaps they would have been better to cite Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'


And just on the RSPT, you really should read Peter Martin’s blog on who proposed to the Henry Tax review that there be such a tax – yep, it was the Minerals Council of Australia:

The submission from the Minerals Council of Australia, dated November 2008, explicitly argued for a shift away from the existing complex system of more than 40 different state-based royalty charges to a national "profits-based" tax.


L said...

Not just any old dictionary, a pocket dictionary. That paywall can't come soon enough.

Also, I love the way that almost everyone reporting on this story (not you or Peter Martin, obviously) fails to realise that the "new tax" is going to replace a truckload of State taxes that raise around the same amount of money, depending on the year, and are just as stupid and random as any other State taxes. Or they forget it deliberately. If Rudd gives in to the combined dark forces of the mining companies and News Ltd and so much as lowers the rate of the tax by 10%, I will lose all hope for this government.

Grog said...


Yes, you think they could have gone at least for the 'concise' version.

You're right, I think Rudd has to nail his colours to the mast on this one.