Thursday, 3 December 2015
Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015; In Committee
Let us just put a few facts on the table. To those punters at home who were confused by all the huff and bluster and all the theatre and so on, let us be clear about what the situation is at the moment. At the moment those multinational companies do not have to disclose their affairs. At the moment, 281 of Australia's richest private companies do not have to tell the Australian public how much tax they pay. We walk away from today without passing this legislation and those big multinational tax avoiders get off scot-free. The Labor Party wants to shout from the sidelines and yell at the coalition about how terrible the coalition is on multinational tax avoidance, and do nothing about it. That is what the Labor Party wants to do. They want to shout from the sidelines and run up to an election saying, 'You guys are terrible,' but when they have the chance to pass legislation to do something about it they are missing in action. That is the Labor Party's tactic on this issue. Well, we are not going to buy it. We have a responsibility in this place, when we can, to get outcomes for people.
Here we have today an opportunity to ensure that companies like Serco, like Glencore, like News Limited, like Johnson & Johnson, like Pfizer, like Unilever all have to disclose their general purpose accounts, which means we know exactly how they structure their affairs and how much tax they are not paying. If we do not pass this legislation those companies get off scot-free. That is what the Labor Party wants to do today. How shameful that we have private companies, companies like Transfield, the organisation that has been contracted to run our detention centre network, worth billions of dollars, and the Labor Party is saying to them, 'Don't worry, we don't want you to disclose your tax affairs to the Australian community.' That is what the Labor Party is saying today.
Some facts need to be laid down on the table. If we do nothing today, do you know what tax transparency we have? Zero, zilch, nada, nothing. We have the opportunity to disclose the affairs of those multinational tax avoiders by passing this legislation.
Senator Conroy says, 'We had the numbers.' Well, he needs a lesson on how democracy works in Australia. There is something called the Lower House, and the government has control of the Lower House. The government has said they will not pass that legislation, and we get another year where we have those big companies that do not disclose their affairs, so that the Labor Party have an issue to campaign on right up to the next election. Well, do you know what? I want outcomes. I want to get things done. Our party wants outcomes. That is why we together made a consensus decision to ensure that these laws would be passed.
The government's bill ensures that next year, consistent with the G20 arrangements, we have country by country reporting. Without the passage of these laws we do not get it—another year where these companies are off scot-free. This legislation will double the penalties that these tax dodgers face by disclosing their affairs. It gives the ATO increased powers. We have the opportunity to do that right now, today, by passing this legislation, and the Labor Party is saying, 'No, let's do nothing. Let's just shout from the sidelines.' Well, we are not shouting from the sidelines. We are rolling up our sleeves and we are making sure that these companies pay their fair share.
I also want to say thank you to the Labor Party. The Labor Party today put out an email where they have said to their members and supporters, 'Contact the Greens office, contact Richard Di Natale, and tell him what you think.' Well, thank you very much. We have a scoreboard in the office right now. Can I tell you about the scoreboard? We are running at 95 per cent conversion rate. People are ringing up and complaining about what we have supposedly done, according to the ALP, so we have a conversation with them and let them know what is actually happening in the Senate, and nine out of 10 people who were previously supporters of Labor are now voting for the Greens at the next election. My request to the Labor Party: can you put another one out tomorrow? Put another one out, please. We love it. It is terrific. Thank you very much. We are thrilled.
Apparently, by not passing multinational tax avoidance we have less money to spend on schools and hospitals. Let's have a look at the logic here. The logic is that if we do not pass legislation that forces multinationals to disclose their tax, that gives increased powers to the ATO, and that ensures private companies disclose their tax affairs, there is less money for schools and hospitals. Thank you very much—what a gift! Where is the brains trust who thought that one up? Terrific—we love it. It is a great opportunity.
And we have the Tax Justice Network—the people who have been leading this campaign, who triggered it off, who said years ago to those people in this place: 'Something has to be done around multinational tax avoidance. We need you to do something on multinational tax avoidance.' We listened. We referred the issue to a Senate inquiry. The reason we are having this debate is that the Greens led the charge and referred it to a Senate inquiry. We did that and, as a result of that, we have laws from this government—one of the few decent pieces of legislation put to this parliament that we have been able to amend and to strengthen to ensure that we give more powers to those organisations that are pursuing multinational tax dodgers. We are getting more transparency for private companies, we are getting more transparency for those multinationals and we are going to ensure that we listen to the Tax Justice Network, who today have said, 'What a great step forward for transparency.' This is a step forward for transparency. Year-by-year, country-by-country reporting will get underway this year. This legislation will ensure that happens.
You have a choice in this business: you can throw rocks from the sidelines, you can try and gee people up and do nothing, or you can roll your sleeves up and get an outcome. You had the option to decide what you wanted to do, and yesterday, when you were negotiating with this government on what you thought were the priority pieces of legislation, where was multinational tax avoidance? Where was it? Nowhere. It was not on the government's business for today and next year, kicking the can down the road. Well, we did something. For all the faux outrage, for all the anger, for all the theatrics, there is a key lesson here. When you are in this place you get outcomes. You have an opportunity to ensure that you listen to those people who have campaigned on these issues and you ensure that what you get is companies like Transfield, like Grocon, like Inghams chicken—big donors to the Labor Party, let me tell you—like Pratt Holdings, like Meriton and like 7-Eleven, and you ensure that they disclose the amount of tax that they pay. We have stopped multinationals like News Limited, like Glencore, like BMW and like big pharma from filing flimsy financial reports and forced them to provide the details that ensure that we can keep a close eye on them, because transparency is critical. Transparency is absolutely fundamental in this. We have taken a good piece of legislation and we have made it better.
We hear, 'What about those other 600 companies?' At the moment they do not have to declare one cent—not one cent. As a result of this legislation, 281 companies are now declaring how much tax they paid.
Senator Dastyari interjecting—
I hear the faux outrage from Senator Dastyari. He does not like this deal. Do you know why he does not like this deal? He does not like this outcome for the Australian community. Do you know why he does not like it? Because he has not been able to feed it to his mates in the press gallery and to stand up and start grandstanding about how he is leading the charge. He is missing in action. The man is missing in action. He is all huff, all bluster and no substance—all tip and no iceberg. This is a man who is more intent on grandstanding and shouting from the sidelines than on delivering outcomes. Well, we believe in outcomes. That is why we have supported this legislation—and not just supported it, but strengthened it and amended it—and ensured that multinationals, huge private companies, finally declare how much tax they are not paying. We know that is a driver to more transparency and to ensuring that those companies change their arrangements and justify to the Australian community why they are not paying their fair share of tax.
Ultimately we know that in this place it is a bubble, but out there the Australian community, as a result of the passage of this legislation, will know that finally the Australian parliament has taken some huge strides forward in terms of going after those companies that are not paying their fair share. We have a choice: again, the Labor Party can run a GST campaign, they can talk about multinational tax avoidance, they can talk about those things and do nothing; or, if we are going to pay for schools, if we are going to pay for hospitals, if we are going to pay for the services that the Australian community wants and deserves, then we need a fairer tax system. A fairer tax system means going after multinational tax avoiders, not shielding them. It means going after them. It means ensuring you end unfair tax breaks like superannuation tax concessions, like the huge fossil fuel subsidies to the mining industry—another Labor party gift to Gina Rinehart and her ilk. We have a choice. We can have a fairer tax base, and the way to achieve that is through measures that go after the tax dodgers, the big end of town—measures that go after those high-wealth individuals who use superannuation, negative gearing and capital gains tax reform as a tax break.
It is the Greens who are leading the economic debate in this country. It is the Greens who are now showing what is necessary to ensure that we balance our budget, that we address some of the structural challenges in Australia's budget. We are leading the charge to making the country fairer and more decent, to raising revenue and to ensuring that schools and hospitals are funded. You guys can shout from the sidelines, but we are in the business of rolling our sleeves up and getting it done, and we will continue to do it. This is just the start. The next stop with transparency is to ensure that we get more companies brought in under this legislation, that we give more powers to the ATO, that we resource ASIC and the Taxation Office, and that we finally make some progress towards getting a fairer tax base so that we can have the community that the Australian people deserve.