House debates

Monday, 27 May 2013


Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013; Second Reading

8:00 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Casey, Liberal Party, Deputy Chairman , Coalition Policy Development Committee) Share this | Hansard source

I ask leave of the House to move the second reading on behalf of the member for North Sydney.

Leave granted.

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The member for North Sydney had introduced this bill, the Tax Laws Amendment (Disclosure of MRRT Information) Bill 2013, in his name but unfortunately he cannot be here this evening because he is meeting a speaking engagement that was agreed to quite some time ago. As you would understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, he has no control over the timing of these debates.

The coalition, as members would know, is seeking to amend the confidentiality of taxpayer information provisions within the Taxation Administration Act 1953, in order to provide an exception to the prohibition imposed on tax officers in relation to the disclosure of information regarding the tax affairs of a taxpayer in relation to the government's minerals resource rent tax. The purpose is that these amendments are intended to remove any doubt that taxation officers may disclose to the minister information about instalments of minerals resource rent tax paid for an instalment quarter in any MRRT year or the total amount of MRRT paid in an MRRT year where the information is provided for the purpose of the minister making the information publicly available.

These amendments will protect taxpayer confidentiality. They will not require disclosure of information about the tax affairs of a particular entity. I stress that instead the amendments will permit tax officers to disclose information to the minister—that is, the Treasurer—that relates only to the total amount of MRRT instalments paid, whether in a quarter or quarters or in the entire MRRT year. It is intended that the amendments will permit taxation officers to disclose such information without committing an offence should the disclosure have the effect of inadvertently identifying a taxpayer. Information about the amounts of MRRT instalments paid for particular quarters or the total amount of MRRT paid for an MRRT year is information that should be available to the public.

As all members of this House know, revenue cannot be raised and money cannot be spent without the approval of this parliament and, in turn, parliament is entitled to the information it requires to scrutinise both revenue and expenditure proposals and performance. Any argument to the contrary is unsupportable in a representative democracy. The bill also compels the minister to table a report updating the House of the parliament within six sitting days of receiving information from the Australian Taxation Office of proceeds received under the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Act 2012 on both a quarterly and yearly basis.

If this bill succeeds the government will have no excuse when it comes to disclosing the total revenue that is raised by their failed mining tax. I will take the time to take the House through some of the history of this government's new mining tax. There have been five distinct versions. The first, as many may recall, was the resource super profits tax, which was announced with the publication of the Henry review back in May 2010. It then became the minerals resource rent tax in July 2010. The third version was the Policy Transition Group version, subsequently adopted by the government in December 2010. The fourth version was the Independents-Greens deal to ensure passage of the tax through the lower house. The concessions as to Independent member Mr Wilkie included increasing the profit threshold at which the tax kicked in. As well there were other Independent member concessions which included the government agreeing to use a portion of the profits of the tax to conduct assessments of regions or catchments to look at the impact of coal seam gas development. That was in November 2011. Then finally there was the Greens deal done to ensure passage through the Senate, including the government promising to provide monthly revenue updates on the tax revenue and splitting the associated company tax cuts that were subsequently dumped in March 2012.

With each version of the mining tax there have been changes in what the government says it will bring in. The original resource super profits tax was estimated to bring in $37 billion over a four-year period from 2012-13 to 2015-16. The redesigned mining tax, which was then rebadged as the minerals resource rent tax, was estimated to bring in $22½ billion over the same four-year period, a write-down of $14.5 billion. These estimates were then revised down in the 2012-13 budget, with it forecast to bring in $13.4 billion over the same four-year period. Again, in the 2012-13 MYEFO a further write-down to $9.1 billion over the same four-year period was booked. Then in the budget handed down for 2013-14 the government has revised mining tax receipts down even further to just $3.3 billion over the same four-year period. This tax went from supposedly collecting $37 billion, to $22.5 billion, to $9.1 billion, then to $3.3 billion over a four-year period—a $33.7 billion write down.

This is exactly why the shadow Treasurer and the c oalition are proceeding with this p rivate m ember's b ill. The public should be informed of exactly what this tax is raising. The estimates provided by the g overnment hav e been so far off the mark, they a re completely unreliable. This p rivate m ember's bill should not be necessary. The g overnment was quite happy to promise full monthly updates on the MRRT when it did the deal with the Greens to ensure the passage of the legislation through the Senate. But then it seemed to have no qualms about breaking that deal when it became clear that the MRRT was not going to raise anywhere near the expected revenue.

The g overnment has linked around $15 billion of spending to this tax over the forward estimates. Just some of these programs have included a 50 per cent discount on interest income, which was subsequently abandoned in the 2012-13 budget; lowering the company tax—also a promise broken in the 2012-13 budget; a standard deduction for work related expenses and the cost of managing tax affairs—the same again in the same budget; and a number of other spending proposals. Additional expenditure measures have been subsequently added, including the establishment of a regional infrastructure fund, expanding the definition of exploration to include geothermal energy, and a number of others. It did not stop after that, either. Additional expenditure measures included from the 2012-13 budget have also been announced, some of which have been announced and then abandoned just in the budget last week. For instance, the increase in the rate of family tax benefit part A, which was announced in the previous budget, was abolished in this budget.

The finance minister has directly linked the schoolkids bonus to the mining tax—a mining tax which is not collecting anywhere near the revenue that the government said it would. I quote the finance minister, who said on 6 June 2012:

I think it's about making sure we use the benefits of the boom wisely. And I think the government's approach with the mining tax and making sure the benefits of that flow through to families, particularly low and middle income families through the Schoolkids Bonus, where people get assistance for kids' education costs, (does that). We need to continue to invest in education and training and we need to make sure we continue to work on productivity. And all of these things are about using the benefits of the boom wisely.

As all Australians know, and as every member of this House knows, the revenue that the government said would be there has not been there and has not been even close to the mark.

As I said at the outset, this private member's bill very clearly puts beyond any doubt the ability of tax officials to provide the Treasurer with aggregate tax collection detail. It puts that beyond doubt and it also ensures that once the Treasurer has that information it is reported to the House and, through the House, to the Australian people, as it should be. The confidentiality provisions are there to protect individual taxpayers but, as former Treasurer Costello said, have never been used to prevent the use of aggregate tax collections. This bill puts all of that beyond doubt and it ensures that there is proper accountability to this House of the revenue collected in aggregate, and through this House to the Australian people.


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