Australia’s petroleum resource rent tax: Paul Keating, Peter Walsh and other game changers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


It is now timely to examine the important area of the 1980s reform of petroleum resource taxation, about which there is scant analysis, compared to other Australian Labor Party reform initiatives from that era. The questions concern the roles of Paul Keating, as Treasurer and Peter Walsh, as Minister for Resources and Energy, in petroleum taxation reform. Bourdieu’s social practice theory is used to analyse the consultative process of resource rent tax policy to legislation, which culminated in the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Act 1987. This Act introduced a tax on profits, over a specified threshold, generated from the sale of petroleum commodities. To revisit the story of the 1980s petroleum tax reform, this article draws on primary archival documents, predominantly from Craig Emerson’s private papers that cover his time (in 1984) with the Office of the Minister of Resources and Energy. Unique insights are obtained into the consultative process via his hand-written files and personal observations. The findings indicate that although Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and advisors such as Ross Garnaut played important roles, Peter Walsh should be given the most credit for progressing the petroleum resource tax policy in 1984, that later resulted in legislation in 1987.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-524
Number of pages33
JournalGriffith Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016


  • Bourdieu
  • petroleum resource rent tax
  • resource rent tax
  • tax reform
  • Taxation

Cite this