TIME FOR ACTION, NOT TALK, ON TAX TRANSPARENCY
The Senate Economics Reference Committee is today hosting a public hearing into corporate tax avoidance and will hear from Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google.
But what they really need to hear is the Turnbull Government’s support for Labor’s plans crack down on multinational tax dodgers, including:
- Tightening debt-deduction loopholes used by multinational companies, improving the Budget by $4.6 billion over the decade.
- Removing tax advantages and inconsistencies between Multiple Entry Consolidated Groups (consisting of Australian-resident entities that share a common ultimate foreign owner) and Australian-owned ordinary consolidated groups.
- Delivering more tax transparency by restoring Labor’s $100 million threshold for public reporting of tax data for private companies. This threshold was raised to $200 million by the Liberals and Greens, exempting two-thirds of private firms from tax transparency.
- Appointing a community sector representative to the Board of Taxation to ensure community sector voices are heard in tax design and review processes.
- Introducing public reporting of country-by-country reports. High-level tax information about where and how much tax was paid by large corporations (over $1 billion in global revenue) should be released.
- Providing protection for whistleblowers who report on entities evading tax to the Australian Taxation Office. Where whistleblowers’ information results in more tax being paid, allow them to collect a share of the tax penalty (a reward of up to $250,000).
SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 21 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Marriage Equality; Citizenship, Amazon and competition laws.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now on AM Agenda the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. The polling shows that most people, nearly 50 per cent of people surveyed in the Newspoll support the postal plebiscite, did Labor get it wrong?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, I think we just need to get on and legalise same-sex marriage. We need to move from being the last advanced English-speaking country that doesn't have same-sex marriage to actually legislating and allowing couples to tie the knot. I had a constituent write to me recently who said that she hoped that both her grandparents could be there at the wedding. But her grandmother has now passed away and her grandfather is unwell. She's worried that every month that we delay, it decreases the chances that she'll have a grandparent there on the big day.
GILBERT: It does look like the numbers are promising though for those that want change. According to this survey, 70 per cent of people say they are going to vote and of those that will vote about 70 per cent said they will vote yes.
LEIGH: We had a marriage equality forum with Tiernan Brady at the Australian National University recently. He was saying the popular opinion in favour of same-sex marriage in Australia is as strong or stronger than in many other countries that already have same-sex marriage. That's why it just makes sense just to do this through Parliament. We didn't have a plebiscite for the last 20 changes to the Marriage Act and we didn't have one for the Sex or Race Discrimination Acts. Same-sex couples shouldn't have to ask the permission of the rest of Australia to marry the person they love.
GILBERT: Now that this is where they're heading, are you encouraged by those numbers in terms of the majority saying they will embrace the vote but also vote yes?
LEIGH: I've always thought that the popular support was there and the support is indeed there in the Parliament as well. All that is holding it up is the opponents of marriage equality. Of course that's why they've designed this plebiscite process. It's a process designed of opponents of marriage equality in order to keep it at bay for as long as possible.
GILBERT: Is it important that those that vote that are voting and advocating a yes vote that they reassure people about religious freedoms?
LEIGH: Religious freedoms are important and certainly religious organisations can do things that secular organisations can't. If you're a secular organisation and you told a woman that she couldn't be promoted simply because of her gender, you'd be in breach of the law. But certain religious organisations are able to do that in some circumstances. We have to constrain these exceptions very carefully - discrimination is inherently ugly and we want to minimise it.Read more
New rules needed to ensure a fair go in the Amazon age of competition
Sydney Morning Herald, 19 August 2017
Last year, for the first time in history, we reached the point where the handful of largest global firms were technology companies. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon have together been dubbed ‘the Frightful Five’. But when top venture capital investors were asked last month to name the leader, the consensus was Amazon.
Founded in 1994, Amazon now accounts for more than half of all new online spending in the United States. Over the past decade, Amazon’s share price has risen 14-fold. Its market capitalisation now nudges half a trillion US dollars. By 2020, investors believe that Amazon’s sales will be three times as large as they are today. That would be the biggest growth story in corporate history.
With Amazon set to launch operations in Australia next year, local retailers understandably have the heebie jeebies. Dubbed ‘the country killer’ by Morgan Stanley, the firm is likely to aim to hook Australians by encouraging the growth of Prime, which provides members with free shipping in exchange for a US$99 annual fee, and now covers some 80 million US households. Expect to see Echo devices in your friends’ living rooms, Dash buttons in their cupboards, and perhaps even drones dropping packages on their doorsteps.
But the question that has many retailers ducking for cover is exactly what effect Amazon will have on competition in Australia.
Despite the apocalyptic warnings, there are reasons for consumers to be excited. More than half of Australia’s industries are concentrated, meaning the four largest firms control at least a third of the market. This means we should be welcoming new entrants with open arms. Indeed, several of the markets Amazon is eyeing off are particularly concentrated. In each of grocery retailing, department stores and postal services, the four biggest competitors control more than 90 per cent of the market. Having a bit more consumer choice would be a welcome change.Read more
The RiotACT, 15 August 2017
In the early-1970s, there were only a few hundred Australian centenarians. Today, we’re lucky to have 700 men and 2800 women aged 100 or over. On current life expectancy, one in forty babies born today will become a centenarian.
One of the privileges of being a local member of parliament is the chance to congratulate centenarians. Recently, I popped in to wish Giralang resident Sheilah Barrie a happy 100th birthday.
Chatting with Ms Barrie was a reminder of how our city has changed and evolved. She moved here in 1925, when her father took a job as driver for Sir John Butters, head of the Federal Capital Commission. The predecessor to today’s National Capital Authority, the Commission oversaw the completion of Old Parliament House, Albert Hall and the Lodge. Reflecting the affectations of the era, his driver wore leather gloves and boots even on the hottest summer days.
Born before the end of World War I, Ms Barrie recalls the deprivation of the Depression, when oranges became a luxury. She lived through World War II, and the Korean War – where her brother was killed north of the 38th parallel. The family still hopes that one day his remains – which now lie in North Korea – might be brought home to Australia.Read more
SCOTT MORRISON CONTINUES TO MISLEAD
References in the media this morning to modelling being released today by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) are incorrect. The analysis reported in the media this morning was not conducted by the PBO.
~ PARLIAMENTARY BUDGET OFFICE, 11.20am.
… This is based on the work that the Parliamentary Budget Office did after the last election.
~ SCOTT MORRISON, 2GB, 12.30pm.
Even when he’s been called out by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, Scott Morrison continues his war with the facts.
Mr Morrison should focus on getting his own policies right and not making false claims about Labor’s tax policies.
MONDAY, 14 AUGUST 2017
TAX TRANSPARENCY – VIA LABOR. AGAIN.
Labor will continue leading the policy debate on tax transparency today with a move to force hundreds of Australia’s biggest private companies to be open about their tax affairs.
Our private senators’ bill will, if passed, require private companies with more than $100 million in turnover to release their tax information to the public annually – effectively putting a spotlight on the taxpaying behaviour of big firms to ensure they pay their fair share.
This stands alongside other transparency measures proposed by Labor, including disclosure of tax haven activity in government tenders, public reporting of country-by-country reports and protection for whistleblowers who uncover tax dodging by multinationals.Read more
THURSDAY, 10 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECT: Marriage Equality
EMMA ALBERICI: Andrew Leigh is Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity. He joins me from Canberra. Bill Shorten has made it clear that Labor hopes to push fiercely for the yes side of this issue on same-sex marriage. What form will that campaign actually take?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's great to be with you Emma. I think the push that we will make for this is a simple case that we didn't want to be here, we didn't want to be achieving same-sex marriage in this way. But given that we have this postal survey, Labor will participate in the process. But it's so unnecessary. We didn't have a postal survey for the last 20 changes to the Marriage Act, there was no postal survey to put in place the Racial Discrimination Act or the Sex Discrimination Act. Tony Abbott didn't offer the Australian people the chance of a postal survey when he set about breaking promises on health and education. It will be divisive, it will hurt families. We held a roundtable earlier this week with many gay and lesbian families talking about the harm that they anticipate will come. We have already heard allegations of polygamy and bestiality which will hurt kids in school yards and hurt families.
ALBERICI: Sorry to interrupt but the question was what form your campaign will actually take. Let me rephrase the question, presumably there will be posters, rallies, letterbox drops, special events that give you the opportunity to present and broadcast your case. How much will you spend supporting the LGBTI community in this way?
LEIGH: We certainly haven't figured out the full parameters of the campaign.
ALBERICI: You are the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, you have got to have put some money aside, it is not cheap exercise to campaign publicly?
LEIGH: Marriage equality groups have been anticipating this outcome, not because they wanted it but because they knew -
ALBERICI: Hold on a minute. Labor, Bill Shorten has staked his reputation on this, very forcefully in the Parliament. It wasn't a bit of grandstanding, was it? There will be something behind this in terms of campaigning isn't there?
LEIGH: Absolutely we'll campaign on it. I don't have a dollar figure for you tonight but we will certainly be arguing that Australians should in the first instance get on the electoral roll and then make sure that they vote yes. We will be running that campaign in all corners of Australia and also trying to make sure that people are brought into this postal survey who might otherwise be missed. We are worried that a postal survey run by the Bureau of Statistics which saw the crashing of the Census website on Census night last year could well have a lot of problems. For remote Australians, for silent electors, for Australians living overseas. We'll make sure it's as inclusive as possible but we didn't need to be here, Emma.Read more
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 10 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Access to Justice for small business legislation passes the Senate; Morrison runs from banks Royal Commission; Godwin Grech MkII.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks for coming, ladies and gentlemen. We have a few issues to cover this morning. Firstly the Labor party is very pleased that the Senate has passed our access to justice policy. This is a policy which gives small business a chance to get a fair go in court against big business. The Labor party believes in proper policy development and leading the way in the policy debate. And as the government is paralysed like kangaroos in the headlights – unable to deal with marriage equality, unable to deal with energy prices - Labor continues to lead the policy debate. We’re doing so on equality in the tax system through our very substantial announcements and doing so when it comes to small business and competition policy as well. I congratulate Andrew and Katy Gallagher on seeing the Senate adopt Labor’s policy and we call the government to recognise good policy and recognise the will of the Senate and adopt this good policy in the House of Representatives as well. In a moment I’ll ask Andrew to add to those remarks.
There are two other issues I want to cover before I open it up to questions. Earlier this week in the parliament, the Treasurer said all options were on the table when it came to banking misconduct. Today, he took the biggest and best option off the table. The policy couldn’t last from Monday to Thursday, when the Treasurer ruled out a Royal Commission into the banks. I think the Australian people understand that the banking sector needs a Royal Commission. How much more evidence does the government need? How much more evidence does this Treasurer need, a Treasurer hopelessly out of his depth. The fact of the matter is the banking and financial system in Australia needs a Royal Commission and it appears only Labor will deliver one. Unfortunately, that means Australia will have to wait longer for it, until we’re in government, but we’ve been very clear on our policy. The Liberal Party has slipped around on this issue, the Treasurer saying all options are on the table and this morning taking the biggest and best option off the table.
Finally, earlier today, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Workplace Relations held a press conference. At that press conference, some remarkable things were said. Some very regrettable things were said. Now this was a desperate, shrill and grubby attack on behalf of Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash on the Leader of the Opposition. For the Prime Minister and for Minister Cash to say these things in relation to Government legislation, in relation to the Leader of the Opposition was remarkable.
This was Malcolm Turnbull’s updated Godwin Grech moment.
It was a grubby and desperate attempt to divert attention from the government’s failing agenda, the fact that the government is flailing around on marriage equality. The fact that the Government has no answer on energy prices, the fact that the Government is squibbing on a banking Royal Commission. They go the low road and attack Australia’s alternative Prime Minister in this fashion says a whole lot more about Malcolm Turnbull than it does about Bill Shorten. Malcolm Turnbull should apologise to Bill Shorten and do so before Question Time. For him to launch this attack shows that he is simply more than willing to engage in grubby politics. Let me remind Malcolm Turnbull that the government in which he was a member spent $50 million of taxpayers money on a Royal Commission into trade unions which made not on adverse finding against Bill Shorten. If he wants to go down this road, he can. Labor chooses to lead the policy debate and go the high road. Malcolm Turnbull chooses to go the low road. He should hang his head in shame. His comments this morning at the press conference were un-prime ministerial, unbecoming and not befitting the office he holds. He should reflect on his approach to the office he holds. He should reflect that he is the Prime Minister for all Australians. He has a job to do, a big job to do. Australia faces big challenges and opportunities and the Prime Minster is failing those challenges and opportunities. Instead he engages in a personal smear against a man who devoted his working life to improving the working conditions of Australians. Well I think Australians are seeing through Malcolm Turnbull’s disgusting smear campaign against Bill Shorten and as I said, it says more about Malcolm Turnbull that it does about Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull is the one who has serious questions to answer about his conduct at that press conference earlier today.
I’m going to ask Andrew to add to my remarks and then we’ll take your questions.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much, Chris. At the last election, Labor took forward a policy to provide access to justice for small businesses. It’s part of our concern that too many Australian markets are concentrated, that in more than half of Australian industries, the big four have a disproportionate market share. Access to justice provides an avenue through which a small business can challenge anti-competitive conduct by the big end of town. It allows a small business at the start of the case to go to the federal court to apply for a "no adverse costs" order, meaning that if they lose the action, then they won’t be bankrupted by the other side’s legal fees. It doesn’t allow vexatious cases to go ahead, but where an action is in the public interest - where it can help boost competition and assist consumers - then these no adverse cost orders can be critical. Meaning that if they lose the action then they won't be bankrupted by the other side’s legal fees. It doesn't allow vexation cases to go ahead but where an action is in the public interest, where it can help boost competition and assist consumers, then these no adverse costs orders can be critical.
I want to pay tribute to Katy Gallagher, Labor’s Shadow Small Business spokesperson and her predecessor Michelle Rowland for the work we’ve done together on developing this policy. We took it to the 2016 election and the Senate just voted for it, voted resoundingly for it by 36 to 22. The Senate has upheld Labor’s Access To Justice policy. That result has since been welcomed by the small business ombudsman Kate Carnell who said that this is an important step in providing a more level playing field for small business.
So the choice now for Malcolm Turnbull is simple: does he want to stand on the side of multinationals and monopolies or does he want to support Australian small businesses? 93% per cent of Australian businesses are small businesses, Labor stands up for them with our Access to Justice policy. The Senate today has stood up for Australian small business but will Malcolm Turnbull have the gumption to bring the vote on in the House? Will he be willing to bring the Access to Justice Bill to the House as he should to allow members like George Christiansen to decide whether they want to back small space business or whether they just want to support the status quo and the big end of town. This Bill must now be returned to the House so the House can vote on it and so for the sake of Australian small businesses, they can get the Access to Justice policy that will help level the playing field in Australia.Read more
KATY GALLAGHER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL SERVICES
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
TIME TO BACK THE LITTLE GUYS
The Senate today passed Labor’s access to justice policy, which will help small businesses take cases of anti-competitive behaviour to court.
Currently, small businesses are less likely to take up private litigation against anti-competitive behaviour.
This is because big businesses have deep pockets and armies of lawyers, so the risk of small businesses being bankrupted by legal fees is a significant disincentive to taking action against anti-competitive conduct.
But this bill will allow a small business request a ‘no adverse costs order’ early in a court case. If the judge decides that the case is in the public interest, the small business will not have the risk of paying the other side’s costs if they lose.Read more
A Postcode Should Not Shape A Person's Destiny
HuffPost, 9 August 2017
The late historian John Hirst once told me that if you took a time machine back to the 1800s, the streets of Sydney would remind you more of Charles Dickens’ London than modern-day Australia. Landless labourers slept rough on the streets, while affluent landowners wore top hats and were saluted by police officers.
Australia wasn’t just more unequal, it was more static. The child of a labourer expected to be a labourer. The son of a lawyer looked to follow in his father’s footsteps. Going back centuries, surnames like Baker, Smith and Cook are a reminder of how little mobility there used to be among our European ancestors. Your surname was your job, and your parents’ job, and their parents’ job.
As Australia became more equal in the post-war decades, we probably became more mobile. Finishing school and attending university no longer depended on having rich parents. We became a society based more on merit than the luck of birth. In the 1950s and 1960s, economic growth boosted middle incomes more than top incomes – and spread opportunity through society.
But over the past generation, we have seen the opposite trend. Since the mid-1970s, real wages have grown by 72 percent for the top tenth of workers, but by just 23 percent for the bottom tenth. If child care workers and cleaners had received the same wage gains as financiers and solicitors, they would be around $16,000 a year better off.
Rising inequality has direct costs. An economy that benefits only the fortunate few isn’t just unfair – it’s likely to be unhappy and unstable too. But inequality also risks harming social mobility; making it harder for a bright child from modest circumstances to make it to the middle class.
This pattern, dubbed ‘The Great Gatsby Curve’ by economist Alan Krueger, shows up across countries. The most equal nations – such as Denmark and Norway – are also extremely mobile. The most unequal countries – such as Chile and Peru – are scarily immobile. Children are far more likely to move from rags to riches in nations that have a smaller gap between rich and poor. The same pattern shows up across cities in the United States: equality and mobility go together.Read more