Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she was confident of resolving a dispute with miners over a controversial tax, amid speculation she could call an election within weeks to capitalize on a government surge in opinion polls.
Mining industry groups suspended a hostile advertising campaign against the tax after Gillard ousted Kevin Rudd last week and promised to negotiate with the industry over the 40 percent tax, designed to raise A$12 billion ($10.5 billion).
But the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies has since expressed doubts over Gillard's commitment in the talks and said it wanted a quick compromise.
I have really serious doubts about the government's commitment to finding a workable solution. They have had four days to get something to us, association chief executive Simon Bennison was quoted saying in The Age newspaper.
Gillard, who has revived the ruling Labor's election hopes, said negotiations with mining companies were ongoing.
Genuine negotiations are underway. They will continue. They will have my personal attention and focus, Gillard told Australian radio.
I believe that in a spirit of goodwill and showing some respect to each other, we can get this sorted out, we can see a meeting of minds.
Australian media speculation suggests Gillard could call an election as soon as possible once a compromise has been reached on the mining tax, but Gillard on Tuesday only said that an election is due in the second half of 2010.
A Nielsen poll over the weekend, the first since Gillard took over, gave Labor a 55-45 lead over the conservative opposition, indicating an eight-point swing to the government.
Talks between Treasurer Wayne Swan, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and senior mining executives are set for Wednesday, The Australian newspaper said, marking the first full negotiations since Gillard made her promise five days ago.
She has said she wants to resolve the issue as soon as possible but gave no timing and has not made clear whether she would be willing to lower the 40 percent tax rate or raise the threshold at which it applies.
The Minerals Council said the tax needs to be resolved before an election, which is expected between August and year-end.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul and James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)