THURSDAY, 2 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT/S: Please explain whether One Nation is complying with tax laws; revelations arising in Estimates about the Government’s leaking of personal information of individuals harassed by Centrelink.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much for coming along today, my name is Andrew Leigh the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and I'm here with Murray Watt. It's been revealed yesterday in questions from Katy Gallagher in Senate Estimates that no entity is allowed to collect GST but then not pass that onto the tax office.
We've seen One Nation on their website show membership prices which include GST but then when one searches the Australian Business Register, there is no record that One Nation is registered for GST. Let's be clear, this is a political party which according to Malcolm Turnbull and his ministry is mature and responsible. One Nation are the economic partners of choice for the Australian Government and yet the public record suggests that One Nation may not have been paying tax. That they may have been the approach that it's one law for everybody else but it's a different law for One Nation. No political party is above the law, no political party should think that it can get away with not paying the taxes that Australians are entitled to.
Every political party needs to ensure that they’re upholding the appropriate standards; and paying their fair share of tax is absolutely essential to that. One Nation might want to get rid of all federal taxation but until that pipe dream has been realised, they have the same GST obligations as any other individual or business in Australia. I'll go to Murray Watt now to add some comments.
MURRAY WATT, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: I’ll just start by making a few supplementary comments about Pauline Hanson but also deal with some of the revelations that came out of Estimates this morning. Well as Andrew has said, this is an extremely serious matter that has been exposed at Senate Estimates yesterday about what appears to be the non-payment of taxes and inappropriate collection of GST by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party Queensland division. I won’t rehash what Andrew’s just said, but it is extremely serious that we have a political party that is advertising on its website memberships including GST, but has not yet obtained the ATO’s permission to collect that GST. Of course this begs another very serious question, which is what is One nation doing with this GST that it’s collecting from Queenslanders, and presumably from other Australians, without the appropriate authorisation. We don’t know how any members One Nation has got. We don’t know how much they’ve collected in membership fees. We don’t know how much GST they’ve collected without having complied with the law about that collection. I think it’s extremely important that Pauline Hanson comes to Parliament today and explains to Queenslanders and all Australian why it is that she thinks that she and her party does not have to comply with the very same tax laws that every other Australian political party, and every other Australian have to do. The reason that we are not in a position to ask Ms Hanson, or Senator Hanson, these questions today is that she’s nowhere to be seen. Senator Hanson is an elected Senator, elected to represent the people of Queensland in this Federal Parliament. All week we’ve had Senate Estimates underway where I, and all the other Senators from Queensland, have been putting in long hours asking questions of Government Ministers and officials and actually standing up for the very same battlers that Senator Hanson says that she stands for. As a Queenslander, I’m getting pretty sick of Senator Hanson running around Queensland telling people that she’s standing up for battlers, but when the hard work has actually got to be done of coming and asking the hard questions of ministers and government officials she’s nowhere to be seen. All week we’ve been asking questions of the Government about, why have they been screwing Centrelink recipients? Why are they getting rid of penalty rates for working people? Why are they cutting education funding for Queenslander and all Australians? I would have thought that the battlers that Senator Hanson says that she represents would be veer interested in trying to get answers to those questions, but unfortunately Senator Hanson’s not here to answer them. Now, we know why she’s not here. It was revealed in the Courier Mail in Queensland today that Senator Hanson has taken a little holiday from Parliament to spend time in the Queensland parliament, dining with her one state Member of Parliament, Mr Steve Dickson. I think we all would’ve liked to have given Parliament this week a miss in Canberra, maybe go and have dinner out with our friends back home in Brisbane, but some of us actually think we’ve got a job to do, which is representing the people of Queensland and to ask Mini9sters and Government officials the hard questions about their policies. It’s about time Senator Hanson started taking her job seriously, started standing up for the battlers and actually doing the hard work that this job requires. I might leave it there with Senator Hanson and come back to Estimates, in case Andrew needs to duck away.
I might move on to some of the serious revelations that have emerged from this morning’s Estimates hearing with the Department of Human Services. We’ve spent the entire morning asking questions about both the failure of Centrelink’s IT systems, and we know all about the stress that that’s caused a lot of Australians. But particularly what we asked questions about today was the leaking of personal information of Australians about their personal affairs, their income, their tax debts, their Centrelink debts. All that information that we have now seen repeatedly linked by someone in the Government to various media outlets. What we’ve been able to establish as a result of our questions today is that the leaking f personal information that was reported in the Canberra Times about a week ago, that information came from either Minister Alan Tudge, or from his office. It was very clear, after questioning his department officials, that while they did provide information to journalists about this matter that was many hours after that information had been provided either by the Minister or by his office. There have been other reports in the media over the last few weeks where someone in the Government has been out there putting personal information about people into the public domain without getting their consent. It’s also become clear today that on at least some of those occasions, the Minister did not get any policy or legal advice from his department about whether it was even legal to do so. So we’ve got a rogue Minister who’s out there undertaking mass character assassination of struggling Australians, single mothers, young unemployed people, low income families who’ve been actually harassed and ripped off by his own department. Rather than fixing up those problems, what Minister Tudge wants to do is to get out there and leak sordid information to assassinate the character of these people. There’s a really serious question about whether what Minister Tudge has done it legal and we will keep pursuing this matter to try and get to the bottom of that. Regardless of the legality, there can be no doubt that what Minister Tudge has done is completely unethical. It is not fit behaviour from a Minister. The Prime Minister should be having very serious words with his Minister, and ask him to behave in an ethical manner which is what all Australians expect him to do.
MEDIA CONTACS: LILLIAN HANNOCK (LEIGH): 0402 189 188
LAURA MANTON (WATT): 0408 698 537