COALITION TO HELP BIGGEST COMPANIES HIDE FROM TAX SCRUTINY
Leaks out of today’s Liberal party room confirm the Abbott Government is gearing up to dump transparency laws which would let Australians seen how much tax big multinationals pay.
Because of reforms introduced by Labor in 2013, the Australian Tax Office is getting ready to release information about the taxable income and tax paid for companies earning over $100 million.
But in today’s party room meeting, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reportedly announced he is working on plans to roll back the transparency laws.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 16 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s attacks on pensions; higher education cuts; Asian Infrastructure Development Bank
CHRIS HAMMER: We're joined by Andrew Leigh, Labor Member for Fraser and also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and Andrew Laming, Liberal Member for Bowman in Queensland. Good morning gentlemen. Now I really have to start, Andrew Laming, with you after your comments on this program last week where you raised objections to the Government's policy on indexing pensions. You said that there were missiles, Exocets and torpedoes lined up at the policy from within the Government itself. Now, on the weekend Scott Morrison has suggested some sort of compromise with a review body to be set up. What's your reaction to that?
ANDREW LAMING, MEMBER FOR BOWMAN: Well the military ordinance is still there but it has not moved. There’s positive signs, we are seeing movement and I think that's what was wanted – not just by backbenchers. The nation wants to see a reasonable compromise supported by the crossbench in a way that pensioners can support. So what we've seen in the last week is an indication that pensions will be looked after by a separate and more apolitical body, and secondly reviewed according to economic circumstances. Both of them seem fairly reasonable but for the moment, pensioners will be asking the question: have our pensions been cut already? The answer is no. Are they automatically going to go from a high to a low level of indexation? Not necessarily. But that's about as far as we've got in the last week.
I was fortunate enough to join the panel on ABC's Q&A, where things got lively discussing everything from inequality to the future of our economy. Take a look:
SUNDAY, 8 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Intergenerational Report
BARRIE CASSIDY: With the Intergenerational Report released this week, we are joined by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh from the Canberra studios. Good morning, welcome.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Barrie.
CASSIDY: When you look at that report, the most sobering thought is the prospect of budget deficits for another 40 years. That should inspire not just governments but oppositions to start thinking about some tough decisions.
LEIGH: Barrie, it is absolutely right we need to be looking at measures which are going to ensure the Budget returns to a sustainable surplus. In government, Labor put in place over $100 billion worth of savings. After the Global Financial Crisis, when we used stimulus to save jobs, we put in place a two per cent real spending cap and stuck to it. Doing things like means testing the private health insurance rebate – one of the fastest growing areas of the budget – and curtailing the baby bonus. Both were opposed by the Coalition. So we have got the track record on making sustainable decisions.Read more
Capital forges civic renaissance, The Chronicle, 3 March
First, the bad news. Since the 1960s, many measures of ‘social capital’ in Australia have waned. On average, we have fewer friends and know fewer neighbours. We are less likely to join organisations, attend church or be part of a union.
Now, the good news. Across Australia, the nation’s capital is also its social capital. Compared with other parts of Australia, Canberrans are more likely to join, volunteer and give. We play more social sport, are more likely to pick up our litter, and are more engaged in community life.
In forging a civic renaissance, Canberra has a lot to teach the rest of Australia.
One of the ways that we foster community life is through our festivals. Festivals showcase many of the latent talents in our community – from dextrous dancers to clever chefs, melodious musicians to stimulating speakers.
The race between human productivity and machines, Business Spectator, 11 March
As US economist Paul Krugman once put it, “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”
Alas, too often, people who should know better have tended to make ‘productivity’ synonymous with longer hours and less job security.
As an economist, I love hearing real-world examples of how firms are raising productivity. Last year, I visited a manufacturing firm that makes mining machines. So baroque had the production line become that when they revamped the layout, the firm found that it was able to get the same work done on a line just one-thirteenth the length. The result was a one-third improvement in productivity for the company.
Visiting Fortescue’s operation in the Pilbara, I heard about its company-wide competition called ‘Have a Crack’, with the prize being $50,000 for the best productivity-boosting suggestion. The winning idea increased the efficiency of the machines that load iron ore onto bulk carriers, saving the company tens of millions of dollars each year. Not a bad return on investment.
TUESDAY, 10 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: support for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission; federal Budget; Intergenerational Report
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's great to be here today to talk about a critically important issue: the sustainability of charities. Alannah MacTiernan and I have just held a terrific roundtable with a group of charities here in Western Australia. Across the medical sector, the community sector, the musical sector, these are charities which are out there helping the vulnerable. We want the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to be able to do its great work of helping taxpayers, donors and charities. We've heard many stories today about the important work the charities commission is doing, the ease with which not-for-profits are able to engage with the charities commission, and the potential for further work in the future to unify charities regulation across Australia. I'm calling today on the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison to stop his opposition to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, and to clearly guarantee the commission's future, supported as it is by four out of five charities. I'll hand over now to Alannah to make a couple of comments.
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN, MEMBER FOR PERTH: It's great to have Andrew over here and talking to a real range of charities across all the sectors. As Andrew said, we've had cultural, social, environmental and medical groups represented here today. Their very clear message has been that this charities commission has been a great benefit to their organisations and they really want to see bipartisan support develop for that. They want the charities commission to stay because they've found it a very positive experience. They also want us to go one step further and they want national laws around fundraising. With the internet and fundraising on the internet today, it's impossible to have the current situation where you've got all of these eight different jurisdictions that you have to be registered in. So there was a really clear message coming out today from charities: they want the charities commission to be supported by the Abbott Government and they want it extended so that we also have uniform fundraising laws around Australia.
IGR = INEQUALITY GROWING, REALLY
Treasurer Joe Hockey has released an Intergenerational Report which is silent on one of the biggest challenges of our time: inequality.
Labor’s 2010 Intergenerational Report had an in-depth section on income disadvantage which highlighted the growing gap between the rich and the rest in recent decades.
It also laid out specific steps in education, employment, childcare and health which governments should take to close that gap in the years ahead.
By contrast, the Abbott Government’s Intergenerational Report does not make a single mention of inequality, and includes just a single reference to disadvantage.
RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
THURSDAY, 5 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Intergenerational Report
PATRICIA KARVELAS: To discuss today's Intergenerational Report from the Labor party's perspective, we're now joined by Dr Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Welcome to the program.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks Patricia. Good to be with you.
KARVELAS: Now Labor says this is a political document, but isn't that the point of an Intergenerational Report, as Mathias Cormann has just explained? He said they are released by the Treasurer, and he conceded that there is an element of a political case being established about what the alternative would be if there was a different government elected.
LEIGH: I don't think that is the purpose of the Intergenerational Report, Patricia. I certainly don't deny that there's a role for politics in some forms of public conversation. But the way in which Peter Costello – to give him his due – envisaged the Intergenerational Report was to talk about those big multi-generational challenges. There's some parts of the Intergenerational Report that I think make interesting reading. There's a useful discussion of the drivers of health spending, for example, but then there's so much of it that seems to be painfully partisan and which is misrepresenting the trajectory that Australia would have been on under Labor. The IGR has not used the independent Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which is the right baseline to use at the change of government, but instead used as the Labor baseline Joe Hockey's first budget update, which included the $9 billion he gave to the Reserve Bank and the $1 billion handed back to multinationals. By misrepresenting what Labor would have done, you're then having a debate which is not based on the facts but which is based on pure rhetoric.
RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
MONDAY, 02 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s multinational tax plan.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Federal Labor today unveiled a policy to shut down legal loopholes allowing some multinational companies to send profits overseas and avoid paying taxes in Australia. But the government says the proposal will cost jobs. Joining me now is Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh; welcome to RN Drive.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks Patricia, good to be here.
KARVELAS: Can you explain really simply how your proposal works?
LEIGH: Absolutely. Our proposal is aimed at dealing with multinationals not paying their fair share of tax using a particular instrument known as debt shifting.
KARVELAS: Ok, well obviously on principle no-one would disagree with that, but Joe Hockey and Treasury have said that it will cost jobs. You might say that Joe Hockey has a political motive for saying it, but the Business Council of Australia also says that company tax measures you've proposed have the potential to slow economic growth and diminish competitiveness. How do you prevent that, and how do you answer their concerns?
LEIGH: Patricia, I'm not sure why it ought to cost jobs to say to firms that their debt deductions in Australia can't be bigger than their overall group owes to third parties. It seems like a reasonable rule, and certainly it's a rule that the OECD has recommended in a recent discussion paper. The G20 has talked about debt deductions, and indeed when he gave a $1.1 billion tax break back to multinationals just after coming to office, Joe Hockey promised to put in place a targeted anti-avoidance provision. Of course, he then backflipped on that. We've heard a lot of rhetoric from Joe Hockey but we haven't actually got any meat. We haven't seen any measures that add to the budget bottom line. That's why Labor has taken this very unusual step, in the first half of this parliamentary term, of putting a costed plan on the table.