Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Matters of Public Importance


4:28 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I do stand corrected, but I can understand why the Labor Party would take such a trivial point of order. That seems to be the standard of the Labor Party these days. If you say something they do not like, they try to stop you saying it. Perhaps they should have a look at something about freedom of speech in this country and get on with the matter. I can well understand this, because the Labor Party is controlled by the union movement and, whenever you start attacking the unions, their underlings in this place simply try to stop you raising the point. We have all seen example after example of how the unions have ripped off their own members in a disgraceful display, and there is no accountability at all. Where is the legislation to make unions accountable for the money which they steal from their members? We all know about the Health Services Union and the CFMEU. We know all about the union of workers in Sydney that funds the New South Wales Labor Party and the rorts and corruption there. Yet Senator Lines has the hide to abuse parliamentary privilege by naming people in this chamber.

This government has done more for accountability across the board than any government in recent history, and I am pleased that the royal commission into trade unions is providing, at last, some accountability for the hundreds of millions of dollars that go through the hands of dodgy union bosses—and, I might say, some union bosses who are not dodgy. One wonders about the Labor Party's enthusiasm for accountability when it comes to people's private tax issues and not about accountability and transparency where union funds are committed.

I do not have a lot of time, and in answering Senator Lines I have strayed a bit from the subject. But can I just point out that the government maintains the Australian Taxation Office's corporate tax transparency publication except for those companies where the publishing of the information would have put at risk the privacy of owners and the competitiveness of businesses. I might also point out that submissions made to the Labor government before the Labor government introduced some legislation in this area some years ago highlighted the risk that disclosing the tax affairs of closely held companies will effectively disclose the tax affairs of companies' owners, and the risk of making public commercial-in-confidence information for private companies. Those submissions were made to the Labor government, and the Labor government at the time took that into account in the legislation they brought forward. The concerns were also raised when the coalition government consulted on the exposure draft of legislation to exclude Australian-owned private companies from the Australian Taxation Office tax transparency publication. The exclusion of these companies, however, has absolutely no impact on the comprehensive powers of the Commissioner of Taxation to require companies to produce any information that is relevant to making an assessment of their tax liability. So the tax office already has that power. It is a very strong power, and it is a power which, I am aware, the tax office regularly uses. The exclusion of those companies also has no impact whatsoever on the amount of tax paid by those companies under the law, and the public disclosure will continue to apply to multinational enterprises operating in Australia and to Australian public companies.

In the limited time left to me, can I again pay tribute to the coalition government and particularly the former Treasurer Mr Hockey for his work in having implemented G20 and OECD base erosion and profit shifting recommendations on country-by-country reporting and harmful tax practices to address that multinational tax avoidance, and the Common Reporting Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information to address offshore tax evasion. These are real initiatives of the coalition government. The Labor Party were in power for six years. I was going to say they talked a lot about this and did very little, but I do not think they even talked too much about it. It was left to the coalition government to work with countries around the world to try to fix this problem of tax and profit transparency. It is an issue that has been around for a long time, and I am delighted that the government of which I am a member is at last doing something that should have been done decades ago, and that will ensure that companies that operate in Australia pay the right amount of tax in Australia, something Mr Hockey and the whole government were very keen on and something the Labor Party had six years to do something about and did absolutely nothing about. But that work is on the way, and I would urge the Labor Party to get involved in constructive issues like that rather than having these base debates and trying to malign and smear fellow Australians.


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