Who supports Labor’s plan for a director identification number? - Media Release


The list of organisations that support Labor’s proposed Director Identification Number continues to grow, with the Tax Justice Network signalling its support for this important measure to help catch dodgy directors of fraudulent phoenix companies. 

Supporters of a Director Identification Number now include:

  • Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
  • Productivity Commission
  • Tax Justice Network
  • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Master Builders Australia
  • Australian Council of Trade Unions
  • Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association
  • Phoenix Project, comprising experts from Melbourne University Law School and Monash University Business School
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Speech - China Story Yearbook Launch



MONDAY, 5 JUNE 2017 

Let me start by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, recognising ANU’s Centre on China in the World for inviting me to speak here today, and thanking Shirley Leitch, Benjamin Penny, Jane Golley and the expert panellists for their thoughtful words.

When I look around Gerald Szeto’s beautiful China and the World building I am reminded of the explosion of modern architecture in China - or as President Xi Jinping calls them: ‘weird buildings’.

These are dotted across the country. They include the big pants, the space eggs, the big boxer shorts, the giant teapot and an assortment of buildings shaped like pianos, violins, lotus flowers, space caterpillars, doughnuts and mobile phones.

They make Canberra’s Shine Dome, Belconnen owl and Garema Place sheep look almost tame by comparison.

President Xi complained about this increase in ‘weird buildings’ in a speech not that long ago where he said that there are too many ‘big pants’ on the horizon. But funky architecture continues to proliferate, suggesting that even Xi Jinping can’t control everything.

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Labor Recognises Outgoing Charities Commission Head Susan Pascoe - Media Release


Labor acknowledges the service of the head of the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission, Susan Pascoe, who has not been reappointed by the Turnbull Government.

The charities commission was created by the Gillard Government in 2011, following numerous independent inquiries that called for such a body. Ms Pascoe was announced as its inaugural commissioner the following year.

In 2007, Ms Pascoe was appointed Member of the Order of Australia for service to education through a range of executive roles. She has won a number of significant awards, including the Outstanding Contribution in Public Administration Award last year. Ms Pascoe has been praised by the public service and charities alike. As advisory board chair Tony Stuart put it, under her leadership, the charities commission has ‘not only survived – but thrived’.

From 2011 to March 2016, the Coalition was committed to abolishing the charities commission. Despite the fact that the commission was established to reduce the reporting burden on charities, the Coalition used their first ‘red tape repeal day’ to attempt to abolish it. The Coalition even introduced legislation to parliament in an attempt to scrap the charities commission.

Surveys consistently show that four out of five charities support the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission. The body provides transparency for taxpayers, efficiency for charities and accountability for donors. Yet it took a concerted campaign, including a letter from more than 40 major charities, before the Coalition finally withdrew their legislation to scrap the charities commission. That uncertainty placed considerable stress on the organisation, which experienced up to 25 percent annual staff turnover during the time that it was slated for abolition.

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Speech - Address to 2017 Property Leaders Summit



TUESDAY, 30 MAY 2017

I've spoken at least half a dozen times to various Property Council events and very much value the conversation. Labor’s policies on housing affordability have been shaped through ongoing conversations and engagement with the sector. You may not agree with everything that we have to say, but I trust you won’t ever fault our degree of engagement with the business community. We understand the importance of the work that you do and the importance of continuing to have those conversations, when we agree and when we disagree.

 We’re meeting at a challenging time for the housing sector. We’ve now got the home ownership rate lower than it’s been in 60 years. We’ve got housing debt to household income at a historic high, more than 180 per cent. At a time when the growth rate of living standards has halved, we’ve seen some of the most rapid house price appreciation in Australian history. That’s left a degree of fragility in the system. According to Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, the share of households with debt more than three times their income was 12 per cent in 2002. Now it’s 20 per cent.

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‘You can almost register your dog as a company director’ - Media Release


Australian Tax Office Commissioner Chris Jordan this morning has confirmed the need for action on dodgy phoenix operators, who deliberately burn companies in an attempt to avoid their obligations to employees, taxpayers and honest businesses.

The Tax Commissioner told a Senate Estimates Committee:

“This is not a new issue. Phoenixing is a big problem, especially when you have these people that are unassociated with the principals. You can’t keep track.”

When speaking on how easy it is to become a company director in Australia, Mr Jordan told one Senator:

“I could appoint you as a company director without you even knowing and me then controlling the company”

The Tax Commissioner also noted that in other countries, proper identification checks are required for anyone wanting to become a director.

Illegal phoenix activity costs our economy billions of dollars annually. That’s why Labor last week announced measures to crack down on dodgy directors:

  • Requiring all company directors to obtain a unique Director Identification Number with a 100-point identification check.
  • Increasing penalties associated with phoenix activity
  • Introducing an objective test for transactions depriving employees of their entitlements
  • Clarifying the availability of compensation orders against accessories
  • Consulting on targeted integrity measures based on the recommendations of the Melbourne Law School / Monash Business School Phoenix Research Team recommendations.
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Malcolm Turnbull is captive to the far right of his party on climate policy - Transcript, Sky AM Agenda




MONDAY, 29 MAY 2017

Subject/s: Paris Climate Accord; Climate Policy; Healthcare Funding.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is Labor frontbencher, Andrew Leigh. There has been a lot of speculation around Donald Trump, he's apparently told people close to him that the US will indeed pull out of the Paris Climate Accord as expected. The Government are pushing ahead with its targets on a broad policy sense you'd welcome although you'd disagree with the mechanism by which they want to get there?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well, Kieran the Government has no plans beyond 2020 and it's rejecting an Emissions Intensity Scheme which every expert supports. State Governments, the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation support an Emissions Intensity Scheme. It’s supported by the Australian Energy Markets Commission, by Prime Minister Turnbull's former energy adviser, the CSIRO, the Chief Scientist and of course Labor. So by putting their head in the sand on an Emissions Intensity Scheme the Turnbull Government are overseeing not only rising electricity sector emissions but also fast rising energy prices. We're paying more for electricity and having higher climate emissions as a result of Malcolm Turnbull still being captive to the far right of his party.

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Tackling phoenix activity - Transcript, 5AA





Subjects: Labor’s plans to tackle phoenixing activity, ATO arrests, charities and transparency

JEREMY CORDEAUX: Phoenixing – it’s a lovely word, isn’t it? Phoenixing, phoenixing, phoenixing. Phoenixing companies. I was talking about it at the beginning of the program – it’s about stripping the assets of a company, going bankrupt, scamming all the creditors – including the ATO – then starting up the company again, down the road maybe or maybe in the same place, I don’t know, and doing it all over again. It’s just too easy and too attractive and it shouldn’t, somebody should’ve done something about this a long time ago.

Somebody who feels very strongly about it is Dr Andrew Leigh. He’s the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and he’s got a whole pile of other things he’s responsible for. I personally think he should be the leader of the opposition, but that’s just me. How are you, Dr?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Very well, though I have to disagree of course Jeremy – I think Bill is doing a fantastic job as our leader.

CORDEAUX: Well, you would say that. I just think you can run rings around just about everybody in parliament, frankly, but anyway.

LEIGH: Very kind of you.

CORDEAUX: That’s just me. Now, this phoenixing thing – how come this has been allowed for so long?

LEIGH: Well, beats me. I mean, phoenix operators are ripping off taxpayers, ripping off workers and most of all they’re ripping off decent small business owners. There was a bloke called Daniel O’Connell, a plumber in regional Victoria who lost $200,000 to a phoenix operator called Global Contracting, who left him and another 300 creditors out of pocket when they took the money and moved it to a different company.

There’s a team of experts at Melbourne University and Monash who have been working on phoenix policy for the last three years and have come up with a bunch of sensible recommendations, including the straightforward idea that we should have a director identification number, so directors can’t pretend to be a different person when they get shut down and then want to go back into business.

CORDEAUX: No, I couldn’t agree more. It’s such a simple way of handing it. If you’re the director of a company - and it’s very easy to set up a company and it’s very easy to become a director – it should be that there is some sort of accountability or tracking mechanism.

LEIGH: And the strange thing, Jeremy, is that it’s easier at the moment to become a director than to open a bank account. We’ve had praise for our proposal today coming not only from the ACTU, but also from former ACT Liberal leader Kate Carnell. We’ve had the Australian Institute of Company Directors saying that they support a director identification number.

CORDEAUX: What do the Liberals say?

LEIGH: Well, they say they’re looking into it, but they’ve been dragging their heels on this one and meanwhile honest businesses are getting ripped off. Phoenix operators are able to run rampant in the economy, particularly in areas like construction and labour hire and they’re giving good directors a bad name and they’re ripping off honest workers.

CORDEAUX: The areas that sort of get feedback on are car, people in the car business, the car industry, the cleaning contractors, the building industry is almost infamous for this type of thing.

LEIGH: That’s right. We all know the myth of a phoenix, a bird that’s magically reborn from its ashes. But there’s nothing magical about these phoenix operators. They’re the lowest of the low because they they’re taking advantage of people’s trust and then leaving others out of pocket to pick up the pieces. Trying to take the assets, strip them out of one company and put them in the next one. We might not be able to eliminate all phoenixing, but straightforward measures such as raising the penalties, getting the standard of proof right and getting the director identification number will make a big difference.

CORDEAUX: Yes, that should just whiz though, for god’s sake. Everybody should be favour of that unless you’re a crook.

LEIGH: I certainly hope it will. We’re encouraging the government to take this up and frankly the thing about politics Jeremy is that we don’t mind who takes the credit, so long as the change gets done. So long as we can get this important change in place and protect people like Daniel O’Connell.

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Flat Wrong - OpEd, HuffPost


HuffPost, 25 May 2017

If you have to blame anyone, blame Napoleon.

In response to the young French general’s early military successes, Britain in 1798 imposed the world’s first progressive income tax, with rates ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent. To save the English from having to speak French, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger decided that the rich shouldn’t just pay more money, but actually pay a higher rate.

Today, there are a handful of countries that levy flat income taxes. In Russia, for example, all income taxpayers pay 13 per cent. But in most nations, taxes are progressive, meaning that the more you earn, the higher rate you pay. When the Beatles sang ‘Taxman’, they were complaining about the fact that their success had pushed them into the top tax bracket, where they paid a marginal rate of 95 per cent.

Unfortunately, when it comes to discussing Turnbull Government’s Medicare Levy increase, a surprising number of political commentators today seem to be confusing flat and progressive taxes.

Liberal Senator Scott Ryan thundered 'The top tax bracket - $180,000 and above – seven per cent of all income earners or just under, they’ll pay 27 per cent of the increase in the Medicare levy so it is highly progressive.'

Commentator Mungo MacCallum observed  'raising the Medicare levy, which in fact means an overall tax increase, is sensible policy, and, crucially it is fair.It is not a flat-rate, across-the-board, slug'.

An editorial in The Australian claimed  'Scott Morrison proposed lifting the Medicare levy from 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent from 2019 to meet the NDIS shortfall identified by the government. However unwelcome for taxpayers, that strategy at least affirmed “we are all in this together”. The levy is a progressive tax.'

All of them are wrong. When you ask a hairdresser and a surgeon to each pay 0.5 percent of their income, that’s a flat tax. 

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Who supports Labor’s plan for a director identification number to crack down on phoenix companies?


Organisations that support Labor’s proposed Director Identification Number, to help catch dodgy directors of fraudulent phoenix companies:

  • Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
  • Productivity Commission
  • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Master Builders Australia
  • Australian Council of Trade Unions
  • Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association
  • Phoenix Project, comprising experts from Melbourne University Law School and Monash University Business School

Groups that have not yet indicated their support for a Director Identification Number:

  • The Turnbull Government


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There is nothing magical about phoenixing operations - Transcript, Doorstop





SUBJECT/S: Labor’s policy to crack down on dodgy directors; regulation of labour hire.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT: I'm here with the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh and we're announcing a Labor policy to crackdown on abuse by directors and the real problems associated with phoenixing in this country. There has been too little done by the Turnbull Government to crackdown on misconduct by directors who seek to strip away assets from a company to avoid their obligations to pay creditors, in particular to pay workers who deserve those entitlements. And for that reason, Labor is announcing a suite of reforms that will provide greater accountability and transparency of directors, higher penalties if there are breaches and indeed a better way of ensuring that workers’ entitlements are paid to them. 

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