Putting the spotlight on company tax dodgers, Business Spectator, 18 December
Every year, the International Tax Review nominates its ‘Global Tax 50’ – the people and organisations who are most influential in improving tax systems around the world. Two years ago, David Bradbury made the list, for being ‘a vocal and pro-active voice on a variety of tax issues’.
One of Bradbury’s award-winning reforms was tax transparency – laws that required the tax office to report the tax paid by firms with total income above $100 million. The Liberals didn’t like the change, and voted against it at the time. After winning government, they set about trying to repeal it – first by warning of kidnap risk, and then by suggesting that it might embarrass some firms if the public knew how little tax they paid.
Farcically, the government said that it wouldn’t pass its own multinational tax package unless the parliament agreed to wind back secrecy. In effect, Scott Morrison was holding a gun to his own head, but the Greens Party fell for it. On the last day of parliament for 2015, the Greens Party agreed to amendments that kept two in three private companies out of the tax transparency net.
This week’s release of tax transparency data has shown the value of letting the sunlight in. The 1300 economic groups covered by the report had a combined taxable income of $170 billion, and contributed $40 billion in tax towards funding Australia’s schools, hospitals and roads.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 17 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Tax paid by $100 million companies; Government in hiding on tax secrecy
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: On Tuesday this week we saw the Government bring down a mini-budget which contained cuts so harsh that even Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey wouldn't countenance them. We saw cuts to aged care; to childcare; to family daycare; we saw cuts to the Federal Police's international deployments; and we saw cuts to Medicare bulk billing.
In bringing down those cuts, Scott Morrison said, "Well, if you don't like these, show us your alternative." Today's release of tax data on Australia's largest firms points to exactly where that alternative might be.
The tax data that has been released today is data the Liberal Party didn't want you to see. The Liberal Party voted against the tax transparency laws when Labor announced them in 2013. Then, when they got into office they tried every excuse to wind them back, including suggesting this would lead to kidnap risk - an explanation described by one tax expert as the stupidest excuse for non-disclosure he'd ever heard.
ATO REPORT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR BETTER TAX TRANSPARENCY
For the first time ever today, Australians have the opportunity to see how much tax some of Australia’s largest publically listed companies pay thanks to laws introduced by Labor in 2013.
The Australian Tax Office’s reportpublished this morning detailed the tax contribution of over 1500 major multinational and Australian public companies.
The Liberals voted against Labor’s laws back in 2013. If they had their way, none of today’s information would have been published.
Worse still, the Liberal deal with the Greens last month to reduce tax transparency means that large private companies will not be subject to the same scrutiny we’ve seen today
WEDNESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government fails on debt and deficit with MYEFO.
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, the Treasurer was not claiming they were great figures he was dealing with yesterday but do you claim that Labor would be delivering better figures on debt and surplus?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Marius, you could hardly do worse than this. Debt and deficits were set as the main task of economic management by the Coalition from opposition. Most economists wouldn't say that was the hallmark of great economic management, but they did. On that mark they are failing spectacularly. This year's budget deficit has blown out by $33 billion. Total debt, when the Government came to office, was projected to peak at 13 per cent of national income and now it is projected to peak at nearly 19 per cent. So the debt and deficit blowout has been spectacular. I was struck by the fact that Joe Hockey kept on blaming Wayne Swan, and now Scott Morrison seems to be adopting a budget strategy of putting everything on to Joe Hockey. Australians just want a government that stops the blame game and starts acting to make sensible decisions in the long-term national interest.
RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 201
SUBJECT/S: Government fails its own economic test with MYEFO.
ALISON CARABINE: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Alison, how are you?
CARABINE: Very well, thank you. Scott Morrison is trying to be positive; you are an economist so with the deficit increasing to $37 billion and the return to surplus pushed out by yet another year, how much trouble are we actually in here?
LEIGH: Alison, economists wouldn't argue that debt and deficit is the number one test of economic management. Most economists would talk about things like growth or inequality or jobs. But the Coalition did say that this was their signal test of economic management from opposition. They said they'd have the budget in surplus in their first year and every year after that. On that call, they've spectacularly failed. We can see that peak debt was forecast, when the Government came to office, to peak at 13 per cent of national income but now it is forecast to peak at nearly 19 per cent of national income. When the Government came to office, the budget was forecast to be back in surplus in the next fiscal year; now it is deficits as far as the eye can see.
WEDNESDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government options to raise the GST.
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, there are lots of kites on economic policy flying in Canberra today. None of them are Government policy so this is a fairly theoretical basis for any comment, but the Government has said it won't rule things out at the moment. There are options reportedly including a 15 per cent GST.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Marius, today Australia's premiers are considering an options paper prepared by the Treasury at the request of Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. One of those options includes raising the GST to 15 per cent, and expanding it to include all food and all drinks as well as to water and sewerage bills. The total impact of that on Australian households would be $4,500 every single year. This, from a party that ran a scare campaign on a carbon price, seems pretty rich to me.
BENSON: But it's only an option. Isn't that the way you should conduct reasonable negotiations – put everything on the table, including the things that you don't agree with yourself, just so you can clarify the lines of debate?
LEIGH: Well if the Turnbull Government doesn't want to go ahead with this, they shouldn't be preparing options papers on it for consideration by the states and territories. The fact is, Marius, we know that smart tax reform involves looking at those taxes that have the biggest drag on economic activity. We know from all the sensible economic analysis which has been done that this involves first looking at taxes such as insurance taxes and stamp duties. Yet they don't even seem to be in the mix. What's in the mix is a huge hit to low and middle income households in Australia, which would make inequality worse at a time when it is as high as it's been in three-quarters of a century.
WEDNESDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government options to raise the GST; Tony Abbott becomes the Australian Donald Trump.
ALISON CARABINE: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Alison.
CARABINE: Now we learned today that the Treasury has modelled eight separate options for increasing the GST and/or extending the base – where does that take the debate on tax reform?
LEIGH: Alison, the Prime Minister has spent this week talking about the importance of being innovative and agile, but I don't see anything innovative or agile about whacking up the GST to 15 per cent and putting it onto bread and bananas. If you're raising $45 billion then that is effectively saying to every Australian household: you're going to pay $4,500 more tax every year. It's a bit strange given the Treasurer was telling us we don't have a revenue problem.
CARABINE: But the Government is not increasing the GST to 15 per cent. The Government commissioned this modelling at the behest of the states, and as Scott Morrison has put it: the debate is still in the discovery process. It's all about the provision of information and the Government is not signing up to any of these options at this stage.
LEIGH: I don't think Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison need much arm-twisting in order to start looking at raising the GST. It's been pretty clear that this has been their number one tax reform option. What troubles me, Alison, is that there's nothing particularly innovative or agile about raising the price of a loaf of bread by 50 cents. Labor has a range of reform options which would see us meet the gap between what the Government brings in and what it spends – which is currently running at about 1.5 per cent of GDP – but without slugging those at the bottom.
LABOR’S PLAN FOR INNOVATION IN DEAKIN
Joint media release with Candidate for Deakin Tony Clark
Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh and Labor candidate for Deakin Tony Clark have today visited the Centre for Regional Knowledge and Innovation at Realm to discuss Labor’s plans for powering a new wave of Australian start-up businesses.
We know that new businesses are the biggest job creators, so providing an environment where start-ups can flourish will be central to growing more jobs in Melbourne’s East.
During their visit to the centre, Leigh and Clark talked with local entrepreneurs about Labor’s plans to co-invest in breakthrough companies through our $500 million Smart Investment Fund.
BBC WORLD SERVICE NEWSHOUR
SATURDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Gun regulation
OWEN BENNETT-JONES: President Obama has in the past sometimes cited Australia's gun laws as a model for the United States. They were toughened there in 1996 after a gunman went on a killing spree in Tasmania. We've brought together Kate Andrews who is a spokesperson for US Republicans Overseas, and Andrew Leigh, a member of the Australian Parliament for the opposition Labor party who began by recalling the mass shooting in 1996 that lead to a tightening of gun laws.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: The Port Arthur massacre took place in a remote tourist destination in Australia when a single gunman killed 35 people at a tourist attraction. If you think of Australia as being a country that's 14 times smaller than the United States, you'd have to think of that as a mass US shooting that cost more than 400 lives. So it had a huge effect on the Australian political conversation. The then-conservative government headed by Prime Minister John Howard decided to work with the states and territories to tighten gun laws and put in place a significant gun buyback.
Australia richer for greater insights into charities and not-for-profits sector - Joint Media Release
AUSTRALIA RICHER FOR GREATER INSIGHTS INTO CHARITIES AND NON-FOR-PROFITS SECTOR
Joint media release with Shadow Minister for Communities Claire Moore
Labor welcomes the Australian Charities and Non-for-profits Commission’s release of the Australian Charities report – the commission’s first comprehensive analysis of financial data on the local charity sector.
Labor believes that the charities and the not-for-profits sector is the backbone of Australia’s community life. The commission’s report confirms their enormous contribution, revealing the sector represents $103 billion of activity around the country. Over 2 million people now volunteer with a charity or not-for-profit, and these organisations also employ another 1 million Australians.
The commission’s good work in registering and monitoring charity activity means we now know more about where and how they do good than ever before. For example, the report finds the greatest number of charities are operating in the areas of education, research and health, while religious charities also play a significant role.
As we come closer to Christmas, the contribution of some charities and not-for-profits will be particularly clear as they support thousands of Australian families with food, shelter and the festive cheer so many of us take for granted.