Government goes Dr Phil on big firms - Doorstop, Canberra





SUBJECT/S: Tax transparency; Budget; Housing affordability.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Today we've heard very clearly from the Government why they want to wind back tax transparency. Previously they'd suggested it was about kidnapping, until it became clear they'd sought no advice from the Australian Federal Police. Now we have Josh Frydenberg arguing that we can't report on the tax affairs of companies earning over $100 million because it might lead to envy. Australians might be envious of how little tax big firms pay. It's pretty extraordinary that when they cut the wages of cleaners, this Government doesn't think at all about the feelings of the people they're affecting.

But when it comes to tax transparency for large firms, suddenly they go all Dr Phil. They want to offer a space on the couch and a foot rub; they're worried about the hurt feelings of the companies that are revealed to be paying too little tax. Let's be clear: tax transparency is about fairness. Small businesses in Australia need to know they're competing on a level playing field. They need to know that large multinationals aren't exploiting debt shifting loopholes that are unavailable to Australian small businesses. If you're pro-small business in Australia, you have to be in favour of Labor's multinational tax package and you have to be in favour of tax transparency laws that make it absolutely clear who is paying their fair share of tax, and who isn't. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Andrew, I know you don't comment on polls but I'm going to have a crack anyway: what do you make of Newspoll this morning?

LEIGH: Laura, polls will go up, down and sideways. We should be talking about ideas rather than horse-race polls.

JOURNALIST: Another poll then, this one is the Lowy Institute poll today saying more Australians are worried about safety and the economy than any time in the past decade. What do you make of that poll?

LEIGH: I think there's a real concern among Australians about issues of security - what's gone on in the Middle East over recent years is disturbing. I'd recommend David Kilcullen's Quarterly Essay on that. But that is a reminder as to why it's really important that both major parties put aside political point scoring and focus on the issues. The leaked talking points from Question Time suggest the Prime Minister isn't taking the issue as seriously as he should. I really want to see an economic team, similarly, that are focused not on point-scoring against Labor but on laying the groundwork for future prosperity. We didn't see enough of that in the Budget, nor in the Intergenerational Report which has now become so hopelessly politicised.

JOURNALIST: Where are you up to with Labor's plans for housing affordability? We were talking last week about negative gearing – what is the timeframe for any announcement on whether you'll look at something concrete there?

LEIGH: We certainly won't be doing what the Coalition did and bringing policies out in the week before the election. We'll announce housing affordability policies in time for them to go through the proper scrutiny, and we’ll engage in a conversation with Australians. Joe Hockey seems to think there's plenty of people out there who could just walk in and demand a wage-rise from their employer in order to allow them to buy a house. Perhaps he hasn't been listening to Eric Abetz, who thinks there's a wages breakout, and we ought to be driving wages down. What we really need is a government that is focused on supply-side measures like considering public transport, focusing on infill strategies and focusing on strategies like the National Rental Affordability Scheme, in order to boost supply in the housing market. 

No more questions? Thanks everyone.  



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