House debates

Thursday, 12 November 2015


Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015; Consideration of Senate Message

11:10 am

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

Well, I think I can predict how it will go here. Yes, we can predict that. You are going to create a dispute between the houses. That is your call. You could just accept the loss. But, no, you do not want to do that. What you are going to do is create a dispute between the houses. That is a matter for you. That is not my call; that is your call. That is the Treasurer's call.

What has happened is that the senators have looked at this matter and at the way they voted last fortnight and they have said, 'Hang on a second, there's a problem.' The problem is that there was a Senate inquiry with an organisation giving evidence before it and it turns out that that organisation is not entirely genuine. It has no members. It is called the Family Office Institute. The Family Office Institute argued to those senators that they were a grassroots organisation and that the legislation would cause them grave concern if tax details were to be made public.

It turns out that the Family Office Institute have no members and are what is called an astroturfed organisation. If the Treasurer wants to talk about shabby processes, let's talk about that. If he wants to talk about shabby processes, we can talk about shabby processes. The Senate was less than impressed with that shabby process, and the Senate voted last night. But this so-called shabby process that the Treasurer is concerned about, which is called the Senate voting, was brought about when the senators looked at this and said, 'Hang on a second, we're not very impressed by this tactic that has been employed by supporters of the government's legislation,' and they decided to reinsert tax transparency. But they did so with a caveat and it is a caveat the opposition are more than happy with.

It is a caveat whereby somebody can apply to the tax commissioner not to have their information disclosed if it is a significant and legitimate concern. That is a fair check and balance, in our view. It was not our suggestion but we are happy to work with that. We are happy to accept that in the interests of good faith. So the vote passed the Senate. The Treasurer says that the Labor Party are blocking this. In fact, the legislation passed the Senate, I am advised, unanimously. That is not how you block legislation—by voting for it. That is not how it works. I know the Treasurer has a problem with parliamentary processes. I know he thinks they are shabby. But when you are actually happy with a piece of legislation, you vote for it. Occasionally, the government is going to lose, but the government actually won last night on the legislation because it passed. That is not called blocking. The Labor Party voted for it. That is not blocking legislation.

I know it is a complex scenario, but the Labor Party supported the legislation. That is not how you block it; it does not work that way. I know the Treasurer is new to the job and still working out how to get legislation through. Last night, Treasurer, you took a win. Know when to accept a win. You got your legislation through; that is called 'winning'. We are happy to support it, and we voted for it. We just had a suggestion—a friendly suggestion—which the Senate agreed with and adopted. It improved the legislation before the House and it improved the legislation before the Senate. The Treasurer is quite right: the Senate recognised that, in our view, they got it wrong a couple of weeks ago. They came to that view and it was negotiated through the Senate last night. That is what happened. The legislation has passed. The Treasurer should just accept the fact that he won the day and got his legislation through, and he should move on.


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