Economic Mismanagement - Matter of Public Importance, Speech

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 13 FEBRUARY 2019

Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (15:44):  It's not often I pick up a copy of the Australian Spectator—hardly a bastion of sensible thought—but my eyes were drawn to an article on Monday by Victorian Liberal Party member Tom Waite. He wrote:

… making the case for necessary economic reform was once benchmark of Coalition political effectiveness. Now it has been placed in the 'too hard' basket in Cabinet discussions and leaves the Coalition economically directionless as it approaches the May federal election.

Mr Waite went on:

There is nothing more pertinent and embarrassing to highlight this absence of vision than the fact that almost half a year since the National Energy Guarantee failed to pass the Party Room, the Coalition still does not have a Federal energy policy.

He concluded:

Where the government continues to shoot itself in the foot, Labor presented itself ready-to-govern at its December national conference.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Mr Waite, I think, has hit the nail on the head. As the shadow Treasurer has said, we have in Australia inequality up and home ownership down—debt up and living standards down, power prices up and savings down. The things that should be going up are going down. The things that should be going down are going up.

Labor leading the policy debate has no better example than our willingness to tackle tax havens and multinational profit shifting. Tax havens are a scourge on the global tax system. They're used by money launderers and counterfeiters, kidnappers and illegal arms dealers. And they've been used by those who were meant to pay the $4.5 million bill for cleaning up Melbourne's Stawell tyre dump. They shifted the ownership of their company to a Panama based firm in order to escape their obligations.

We now know that most of the money in tax havens is there in breach of other countries' tax laws. Two dollars in every five of multinational profits are channelled through tax havens. Among individuals, most of the money in tax havens is held by the top 0.01 per cent, the richest 1/10,000th of the population. Australian assets held in tax havens may be worth as much as $100 billion.

Labor will get tough on tax havens. We'll  stop people claiming a tax break for flying to tax havens to check on their investments. We'll require firms to disclose to their shareholders tax haven shenanigans as a material tax risk. We'll require government tenderers to disclose their country of tax domicile, put in place a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership and develop guidelines for responsible tax haven investment by superannuation funds.

The fact is, Labor has a track record on tax. It was Labor's laws—opposed by the Liberals—that helped deliver the tax office's $300 million win against Chevron in the High Court. It was Labor's laws—opposed by the Liberals—that underpinned the tax office's $529 million settlement with BHP. And it was Labor's laws—opposed by the Liberals—that delivered the majority of the $5.6 billion collected from multinationals. Remember that the government's Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law only applies from 1 July 2016.

The coalition only has falsifications. The member for Fadden keeps on persisting in misleading the House by claiming that Labor voted against the government's Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law. The fact is, we supported it in the House and we supported it in the Senate. But that's not all the member for Madden is misleading people about. We've got an article in the Gold Coast Bulletin today relating to a donation given to the Fadden Forum by Shac Communications, a company that made a $114,000 donation to the Fadden Forum months before it went into liquidation with debts of $437,000, including $355,000 to the tax office.

We've asked the Queensland Liberal-National Party, the Fadden Forum and the member for Fadden whether they will return the money, because the taxpayer is out of pocket and the Queensland Liberal-National Party has got money that would otherwise have gone to the taxpayer. It seems pretty reasonable to us that they would return that donation from Shac Communications. Do you know what the answer was from the member for Fadden to his local newspaper? He said, 'The Fadden Forum doesn't exist.' That's it. The Fadden Forum doesn't exist.

The website—helpfully archived before the member for Fadden had to give evidence to the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission—shows an organisation that apparently doesn't exist. It apparently didn't exist in 2013. The Liberals think they can wipe this down the memory hole, leaving the taxpayer out of pocket—and the Queensland Liberal Party having money that should be in the taxpayer's pocket.

 


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