The government has ended the Parliamentary year with its budget in a real mess. In this op-ed for the Daily Telegraph, I've looked ahead to the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement to encourage Joe Hockey and his colleagues to find a better, fairer way.
Meritocracy at risk of becoming a mate-ocracy, Daily Telegraph, 5 December
Early last year, Joe Hockey pledged: "We'll deliver a surplus in our first year and every year after that." For the eighth time, he committed that an incoming Coalition government would never preside over a budget in deficit. Every Coalition budget, Mr Hockey pledged, would be a surplus budget.
Fast forward a year, and the only thing in surplus is red ink. When the Coalition came to office, the Charter of Budget Honesty laid out the state of the books. This year's budget deficit was forecast to be $24 billion.
So much for paying down debt. By the time Mr Hockey had delivered his first budget, he'd pushed this year's deficit up to $30 billion. Now, most informed sources have it blowing out still further when the mini-Budget is released in a few weeks.
Why is the deficit rising? Part of the answer is that Mr Hockey can't resist looking after his mates. A billion dollars to multinationals, a tax break for people with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts, and soon you're talking real money.
DEAR HOCKEY: GET YOUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER
Joe Hockey’s hypocrisy appears to know no bounds, as he lectures European leaders about cracking down on corporate tax avoidance while re-opening $1.1 billion in loopholes here in Australia.
The Treasurer has reportedly written to the European Union’s tax commissioner urging him to tighten rules that allow profit shifting and lead to erosion of the national tax base.
Yet while Mr Hockey attempts to throw his weight around in Europe, back in Australia he could not be taking a lighter touch on multinational profit shifting.
Yesterday it looked as though we'd get to decide on the future of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission once and for all. Today, the government has backed away from putting it to a vote. This uncertainty is bad for the charity sector and has gone on long enough.
ALARMED ANDREWS RUNS AWAY FROM ACNC FIGHT
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has beaten a retreat from putting his plan to abolish the charities commission to a vote in the parliament, leaving not-for-profits in limbo again heading into Christmas.
Yesterday Minster Andrews finally allowed for debate on the bill to abolish the charities commission, 253 days after it was first introduced to the House of Representatives.
The debate was scheduled to continue today, but the government has now pulled its bill again and will not bring it to a vote before Parliament rises for the year.
The Abbott Government has decided to use the last two days of parliament for the year to debate abolishing the charities commission. That's an appalling message to send the not-for-profit sector as they're gearing up to help hundreds of thousands of Australian families out over Christmas.
CHARITIES COMMISSION KERFUFFLE AN EMBARRASSMENT FOR ANDREWS
The Abbott Government’s plans to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission are in a shambles, as the government will this afternoon attempt to rush through a pointless bill which cannot pass the Senate.
Exactly one year ago, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews stood up in the parliament and committed to sending the charities commission to the chopping block.
With the Abbott Government refusing to back my push for greater tax transparency, I took to the pages of Business Spectator to make the case for more truth and less 'truthiness' in the debate about multinational tax.
The truth about the government's tax stance, Business Spectator, 2 December 2014
If you want to know how your local school is performing, you can check the My School website for data on its results, funding, enrolments and more. If you want to be sure about a company you’re doing business with, you can search ASIC’s registers for details of its ownership, history and past run-ins with the law. And if you want to find out where to eat out, many states and territories have rated their restaurants for food safety (my favourite is Brisbane City Council, which gives all establishments a star rating).
Transparency is valuable in many contexts because it helps us make more informed decisions — whether as parents, consumers or businesspeople. More sunlight provides a strong incentive for companies, organisations and individuals to do the right thing.
That transparency principle underpins the Private Members Bill I’ve just introduced in the federal parliament. The bill aims to put more information about how much tax multinational companies pay into the public domain. With better information out there on the public record, we’ll be able to have a frank and informed discussion about whether big companies are paying their fair share.
As the start of December brings a new Labor government for Victoria, I joined Sky AM Agenda to talk about what lessons the federal Liberals should be taking from the defeat of their state counterparts, starting with their unfair budget.
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Victorian state election; Joe Hockey’s mini-budget; Movember
KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, thanks for your company this Monday. With me is the Coalition frontbencher Darren Chester and Labor's Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant treasurer. Gentlemen, good morning to you both. Let's start with the Victorian election again. As a Victorian, Darren, you've said that some federal issues were at play over the weekend?
DARREN CHESTER, MEMBER FOR GIPPSLAND: It is a disappointing result for the Coalition and you need to be a realist in these situations. It was quite a tough environment in Victoria and some of the federal issues were playing into that. I think primarily it was a campaign fought on some pretty tough state issues for the government. The TAFE issue, ambulance pay, the Geoff Shaw disfunctionality that surrounded the parliament there for a couple of months, that made it very hard for Denis Napthine and Peter Ryan to get a clear message out. There's always more than one issue that plays into an election. I think there's no doubt that the tough budget decisions we had to make, and continue to try and implement, have had some impact but I wouldn't overstate that.
STATEMENT - KATE LUNDY
In nearly two decades in parliament, Kate Lundy has helped shape Australia for the better.
In 1996, Kate became the youngest woman in the federal Labor caucus and a standard bearer for a more representative Parliament.
She has been an early adopter of technology, seeing its power to widen our democracy, and bring more people into the conversation.
Kate is a star of the sports field, quick with a hockey stick or a soccer ball. Her prowess has even gotten her into trouble, as with the time she lost a bet with the UK Sports Minister, and was forced to row down the Thames wearing British colours.
Today I tabled the Fluffy Families and Residents First Group Impact Statement in the federal parliament. It was a privilege to share these families' voices and let them know that our community stands behind them.
Constituency statement - Mr Fluffy families
27 November 2014
I seek leave to table the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group Impact Statement ‘Hope in grief: confronting Mr Fluffy’s toxic legacy in Canberra and Queanbeyan’.
For people outside the ACT, the name ‘Mr Fluffy’ probably calls to mind something fun and frivolous. But fun and frivolity have been pretty scarce over the last few years for over 1,000 Canberra families who discovered their homes had been pumped full of crushed raw asbestos by a dodgy contractor trading under the name of ‘Mr Fluffy’.
This morning I introduced a Private Members Bill to increase tax transparency by requiring the ATO to publish data on what big companies have paid. The Abbott Government now has a choice: it can back my bill, or prove it really is all talk but no action on tackling multinational tax avoidance.
TIME FOR ABBOTT GOVERNMENT TO BACK BETTER TAX TRANSPARENCY
Labor has today introduced a bill to put more information about how much tax multinational companies pay into the public domain.
The Private Members Bill will bring forward the publication of data about the tax paid by companies with total income over $100 million. If passed, the Australian Tax Office will publish information about these companies’ taxable income, total income and tax paid for the 2012–13 financial year onwards.
Knowing more about what companies earned and how much tax they paid is an important step in addressing multinational profit shifting.
Although Parliament isn't sitting this week, there has been so much happening in federal politics that Waleed Aly invited myself and Josh Frydenberg onto his Drive program to talk through it all. Here's the transcript:
RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
TUESDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: ABC cuts; visiting Chinese and Indian leaders; renewable energy
WALEED ALY: There’s so much international stuff going on in Australia, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stole the show again today, I think he might have a habit of doing that. He and Tony Abbott got together and they sprung a surprise, they promised to crank-up their economic relationship. There was talk of a free trade deal that could be finalised within a year, also military cooperation, not a bad result for Australia you might think on the economic front, particularly when you factor in the deal with China that was signed yesterday, or at least the statement of intent. There’s potential here there, but there might be possible shortfalls as well. Joining me as sparring partners are Josh Frydenburg, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Gents welcome, thanks for coming back in.
JOSH FRYDENBERG, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Nice to be with you, Waleed and Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good to be here, Josh and Waleed.
ALY: I am just overflowing with the number of important people that have touched down in Australia recently. What do both of you think of the fact that Kim Kardashian has just arrived?
FRYDENBERG: She’s playing second billing to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie because they’ve also been in town. But in term of Australia’s long term interests, this has been a historic few days Waleed.
ALY: What a seamless segue Josh! That’s very well done, I’m impressed.
FRYDENBERG: It has been. I mean you think that not just the G20 leaders have been here but also the leaders of the major international organisations like the United Nations, like the ILO, like the WTO, like the Financial Stability Board, like the IMF and the OECD and World Bank. It’s just been an array of leaders who’ve been in Brisbane and many who have gone onto make state trips including Modi and Xi Jinping.
ALY: Who got to Tassie, I think we should say. I think we should acknowledge that which means he’s covered every state and territory in the country doesn’t it?
FRYDENBERG: I think it is and that’s his fifth visit to Australia so very interesting. Actually Waleed, his father was, or his grandfather I think it was, was Party Chief of the Guangdong Province and came to Australia 35 years ago where he signed a deal with Neville Wran as a sister city relationship in New South Wales. So that’s an interesting historic fact too.
LEIGH: Waleed, it’s great having him in town. And I think it’s a moment for Australia that we’ll look back on and recognise because never before have so many world leaders been in the country. You know, it’s great for me now to recognise that all sides of politics think it was a good thing having the G20 in Australia. What I really appreciated too was hearing in the Parliament from particularly Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi. I met Narendra Modi back in 2000 when I spent a month travelling around India. He was then General Secretary of the BJP and I managed to spend half an hour chatting with him about his vision for India, little knowing that 14 years later he’d be in the top job.