Thursday, 3 December 2015
Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015; In Committee
Again, just as an example, we have News Limited, who, through the Senate inquiry, were outed as being major risk when it comes to the level of tax that they pay—or, indeed, do not pay. This amendment says that we are now going to ensure that you publish in detail your accounts so we can track your arrangements and make an assessment about what a fair level of tax should be, given the profits that you make. And we have the Labor Party saying to News Limited, 'No, we don't want to do that. We're going to let you off the hook.' I have to say it is remarkable that for the past three or four hours we have heard about how important tax transparency is to the Labor Party, and now they are going to vote against an amendment that enforces those companies—Pfizer, Glencore, News Limited—to disclose their accounts, and we are having a debate about whether the Labor Party should or should not support it! Now we hear that they are not going to.
What it says to me is that those words ring very hollow. All the huff, all the bluster and all of the rhetoric that we have heard for the past few hours have been exposed as nothing more than grandstanding, because we have an opportunity. We are in the parliament. Our words actually do not matter that much. What matters are our actions. And right now we have the opportunity with our vote, the most precious thing that we are given in this place, to support legislation that would force those companies with a billion dollar turnover to disclose their affairs, and we know what that means. We know that when you force companies—as we saw in the UK with the number of companies who were forced to disclose their affairs; it drastically changed their behaviour—they realise that, to have a social licence, it actually hurts their bottom line when they are paying an unfair level of tax. It removes their social licence. So now we have legislation that is going to do that to those multinationals based here in Australia, and the Labor Party are saying no.
It says to the Australian community that all the rhetoric we have heard for the last few hours is hollow and meaningless and this is all about grandstanding and not about outcomes. You have an opportunity to move from the sidelines into this debate and to support legislation that will ensure that those companies pay their fair share. I just urge the Labor Party, and, indeed, the crossbenchers, to support this amendment, because it will be a critical tool in the fight against multinational tax avoidance.