Our right to know if big firms pay their fair share, Daily Telegraph, 19 June
Here’s a question for you: who pays for your nearest hospital? Whose money fixed the road you use to get to work? Who shells out for the books and computers that keep kids learning at the local school?
You do, of course. We all contribute to funding these things through the tax that comes out of our fortnightly pay. Recently though, it has become clear that some of us are contributing more than others.
Someone earning the average Australian income pays about 21 per cent in tax; a small business pays the corporate rate of 30 per cent on their profits. But in the past few years there have been increasingly regular reports about huge companies paying just a fraction of that.
For instance, in a recent Senate inquiry we heard evidence that one big multinational firm may have paid as little as 2 per cent tax on billions of dollars in revenue. If the average Australian wage earner paid tax at that rate instead of their standard 21 per cent, they’d be paying almost $15,000 less a year.
Here's to a sharing economy, joint op-ed with Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon, Newcastle Herald, 17 June
On the second floor of an unassuming building on Beaumont Street in Hamilton, Justin Hales and his team (he’s the one inside the caravan in the photograph) are trying to shape the future of self-drive holidays. Their start-up, Camplify.com.au, lets owners of caravans and campervans rent them directly to other users.
Justin’s family used to take camping holidays when he was a child, and he fondly recalls their annual trips to the Breakers Caravan Park in Port Macquarie, where his family would park their blue and white Viscount caravan amid their neighbours, and enjoy the sense of community and freedom. His favourite part of it, Justin says, was knowing he was sleeping on the kitchen table every night.
Silence on the agenda at environment inquiry, Pro Bono, 16 June
For the past few years, the Australian Marine Conservation Society has been fighting hard to stop millions of tonnes of dredge spoil being dumped onto the natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Sometimes their fight has taken them out in the community – collecting signatures on petitions and making phone calls to let Australians know what’s happening. Other times it has taken them into courtrooms, where they’ve stood with other environment groups in seeking injunctions against the harmful dumping.
From time to time, it has also brought the Society into conflict with big resource companies and state and federal Liberal governments via the media and other public forums.
Today in the federal Parliament, the House of Representatives Environment Committee will meet to hear evidence on whether groups like the Society should continue to have Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status under Australia’s tax law. There are almost 600 environmental groups that currently qualify for this status; it allows them to offer tax breaks when accepting donations from the Australian community.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 16 JUNE 2015
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.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government paying people smugglers; Citizenship changes; Marriage equality; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission
CHRIS HAMMER: Andrew Leigh is the federal MP from Fraser here in the ACT and he's also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Good morning, Andrew.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning Chris, how are you?
HAMMER: Now what answers do you want to hear from the Government about what has been happening with people smugglers?
LEIGH: Chris, we really need to know whether or not Australia has been paying people smugglers. This goes to the very heart of the Government's competence on asylum seeker policy and their willingness to be honest with the Australian people. What more important issues could there be in public policy than whether you're doing your job well and whether you're being honest about it?
FRIDAY, 12 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Sharing economy; Supporting local start-ups
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: It's a real pleasure to be in Newcastle today with Sharon Claydon, engaging with new industries. We've just been to meet with the founders of Camplify.com.au, a start-up which is launching its updated website today. Camplify gives Australians the opportunity to directly connect with someone who is hiring out a caravan or campervan. It's just another example of how the new sharing economy is creating jobs around Australia. Labor's sharing economy discussion paper recently closed its submissions, and received hundreds of responses from firms and individuals around Australia about how we can make sure that the sharing economy serves consumers and workers. It's a delight to see the hard work that Sharon is putting into growing this industry and providing jobs and opportunities in Newcastle, and I'll just hand over to Sharon now to say a few words.
NO JOY FOR BELCONNEN IN WEEK OF GOVERNMENT GAFFES
While the Abbott Government has spent the week insulting first homebuyers and damaging confidence in the renewable energy sector, the Belconnen community has continued its long wait for news about the Department of Immigration move.
It has now been 16 weeks since the government’s own deadline for announcing a decision on Immigration’s future expired.
ABC 774 MELBOURNE
THURSDAY, 11 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Housing affordability; Negative gearing; Budget; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission into Trade Unions
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Andrew Leigh is part of Bill Shorten's team, he's the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and an ALP MP in the ACT as well. Andrew Leigh, good afternoon.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Good afternoon Raf, how are you?
EPSTEIN: Andrew, why does your leader refuse to answer detailed questions about his time with the AWU?
LEIGH: Raf, Bill has spent his entire life working to ensure that Australian workers get a better deal. He's been out there making sure that cleaners and shearers get a fair deal in the workplace. He's taken an absolutely firm line on wrongdoing in the union movement and said very categorically that there's no place for people in the union movement who do the wrong thing.
TUESDAY, 9 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Housing affordability
STEVE CANNANE: The Treasurer Joe Hockey said today in relation to housing affordability that people would not be buying homes if they were unaffordable. He also advised young homebuyers to get a good job that pays good money. Is he right?
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASUER ANDREW LEIGH: Well Joe Hockey seems not only to think that poor people don't drive cars, but also that they shouldn't own houses. He seems to be the only person in Australia not to recognise that housing affordability is a major issue for young Australians. I worry constantly about how people in Sydney on a five-figure income can afford a house that costs seven figures. We've now had numbers showing that the home ownership rate for 25 to 34-year-olds has fallen 10 percentage points over the last decade from 50 per cent down to 40 per cent. That creates real challenges for young Australians looking to break into the housing market.
MONDAY, 8 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Housing affordability; Family Tax Benefit cuts
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, is it worth Labor considering an end to negative gearing? Or is that just in that never, ever to-be-touched basket politically?
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Marius, negative gearing is an issue that was actively considered by the Henry tax review in 2009 and they recommended change. It’s an issue which the government's tax discussion paper, a few months ago, also suggested might usefully be looked at. You'd expect a responsible opposition to be looking carefully into this, particularly given where the budget is. But Chris Bowen has laid out clear parameters. We certainly wouldn't do anything that would disadvantage existing owners, and we'd have a careful mind to making sure that there's new housing supply coming into the market.