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.
In just a year the Abbott Government has managed to set off industrial action within one of its largest public service departments, gut the CSIRO and cause ACT unemployment to rise to its highest level since 2001. How much worse will things have to get before Liberal Senator Zed Seselja will speak up against Tony Abbott's public service cuts?
ABBOTT’S CUTS CAUSING CHAOS ACROSS THE PUBLIC SERVICE
The Australian Public Service is in turmoil because of the Abbott Government’s harsh budget cuts. Industrial action is imminent within one of its largest departments, more scientists are set to go from CSIRO and 7,200 staff have been forced out of their jobs in the past year in Canberra alone.
Yesterday staff at the Department of Human Services (DHS) overwhelmingly voted to pursue industrial action in protest against the Government’s below-inflation wage offer.
“The Government is trying to force the department’s 35,000 staff to accept longer working hours and reduced conditions in return for a pay offer that will see their real wages decline over time,” said Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh.
“The decision to pursue industrial action comes after months of stonewalling from the Government when staff have tried to negotiate a fairer deal.”
Colour me surprised: Joe Hockey has emerged from the G20 meetings with nothing except a series of reheated announcements on multinational tax avoidance.
NOTHING NEW IN G20 TAX PACKAGE
True to form, Joe Hockey has failed to deliver anything new on multinational tax avoidance from this weekend’s G20 summit.
Although he and Tony Abbott are touting agreement on the Common Reporting Standard and the OECD’s base erosion Action Plan as big wins, in fact both of these things had been agreed long before the world leaders sat down on Sunday.
What’s more, they depend on individual governments taking domestic action to implement them. Joe Hockey has squibbed it every time he’s had the chance to act on multinational profit shifting, as his record shows:
This weekend's G20 summit wasn't a good one for Tony Abbott and his government. He was forced by the other world leaders to talk about climate change after working hard to keep it off the agenda, he failed to deliver anything new on multinational tax avoidance, and his so-called growth package turned out to be nothing more than a list of the budget's most unfair measures. I joined Sky AM Agenda to take stock of it all; here's the transcript.
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: G20 growth target; climate change; China Free Trade Agreement
KIERAN GILBERT: I'm joined now by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh; you'd welcome the growth target? This is unequivocal win out of the G20, isn't it, 2.1 per cent from the 20 biggest economies?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: We'd certainly support anything that boosts growth, Kieran. The question here isn't about the value of the target, it's about the believability of how the Abbott Government intends to get there. If anyone can produce a serious economist who says that slapping on a GP tax or $100,000 degrees are going to make it easier for Australia grow rather than harder, I'd like to meet them.
GILBERT: But in terms of the overall commitments, this is a multilateral organisation, the G20, and we hosted it. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey drove this agreement – that's a clear win for them, isn't it?
LEIGH: It's a huge event, the biggest gathering of world leaders ever on Australian soil, and it's always great for Australia when these things happen. My concern was that on the world stage, when given the opportunity to talk about big global issues like climate change, we have Tony Abbott showing that it doesn't matter how big the stage is, he's going to show how small he can be. I was surprised in those opening remarks when he was complaining about getting things through the Senate, I almost expected him to start talking about Brookvale Oval and how its redevelopment is going to add to growth. Frankly, it's an agenda which was too small for the gathering of world leaders we had, and to suggest that climate change isn't a big economic issue is to fly in the face of IMF evidence which says unchecked climate change will take two per cent off global growth.
As the G20 leaders meet this weekend, this is Joe Hockey's opportunity to show he's capable of more than talk on multinational tax avoidance.
TIME FOR HYPOCRITICAL HOCKEY TO ACT, NOT TALK
Joe Hockey has gone into overdrive with hypocritical rhetoric on multinational tax as the G20 leaders meet this weekend.
But all the talk in the world won't make up for the fact that the Treasurer consistently fails to act when it counts.
Every time he and the Coalition had the chance to work with Labor to close tax loopholes in the past few years, they voted against this.