Time to claim our fair share of taxation - Transcript, 3AW with Tom Elliott





SUBJECTS: Paradise Papers, Labor’s multinational tax avoidance laws and Scott Morrison’s plans to give multinationals and millionaires a tax cut.

TOM ELLIOTT: The Labor Party is onto this, they say it is time for Australia to claim its fair share of taxation. Joining me on the line now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon, Andrew.


ELLIOTT: What sort of companies or individuals are we talking about here, we're talking about Australian businesses that set up offshore or are we talking about the Amazon and Google of the world? Who are we discussing?

LEIGH: It seems to be a who's who of oligarchs, multinationals, tech companies, mining companies. What's really surprising about this to me is the broad swath of companies that are taking advantage of tax havens. Except of course your local little old Aussie business which doesn't have the advantages the big end of town gets.

ELLIOTT: So when you're talking about tax havens, what's a typical manner in which these are operated?

LEIGH: One of the most egregious examples is if you go to the Cayman Islands on the waterfront you'll find a building called Ugland House. That building is the registered office address for more than 18,000 companies. Of course, they don't actually have staff there, what they're doing is just routing their transaction through the Cayman Islands to take advantage of its generous tax rules. We think that there ought to be one rule for all companies rather than a different rule for the big end of town which lets them exploit tax havens. That's why Labor has put on the table a set of measures on tax havens. For example, if you want to go for a government tender worth more than $200,000 Labor thinks you should tell us your country of tax domicile. 

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We can’t rely on leaks to enforce tax policy - Op Ed, The Guardian


The Guardian, 6 November 2017

Another day, another leak showing dodgy dealings in tax havens. The so-called Paradise Papers, a leak of 13.4m files from two offshore service providers, reveal tax avoidance by a plethora of moguls and multinationals. From Russian oligarchs to mining giants, celebrities to technology firms, it seems like everyone who’s anyone in the shadowy world of the super-rich has money stashed in a tax haven.

Tax havens make it frighteningly easy for firms to divert profits onto their sunny tax-free shores. Last year, reporters compiled a five-step guide, showing how to establish your own secret firm in a tax haven. The process takes 10 minutes, costs about $2,000, and guarantees anonymity. Annual fees can be steep, but the start-up process is almost trivially simple. As the reporters put it, it’s “not unlike booking an international plane ticket or an overseas hotel”.

Tax havens have been estimated to hold at least $7tn in assets, costing the global economy hundreds of billions in lost taxes every year. Cayman Islands has fewer people than Bendigo, but more foreign-owned deposits than Japan. Head to the Caymans waterfront, and amid the diving shops, you’ll find Ugland House, a building that stands as the registered office address for more than 18,000 companies. Sound fishy?

One tax expert estimates that around four-fifths of money in offshore bank accounts is there in breach of other countries’ tax laws. Tax havens are used by drug-runners, extortionists and money-launderers. They are used to hide the proceeds of fraud, corruption and tax evasion.

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More transparency, tougher laws - Transcript, 5AA with Leon Byner





SUBJECTS: Paradise Papers, Labor’s multinational tax avoidance laws and Scott Morrison’s plans to give multinationals and millionaires a tax cut.

LEON BYNER: Tonight, Four Corners on the ABC are taking you inside what you call the secretive world of tax havens, where corporations and the wealthy operate far from public view. They’re going to reveal the lengths that some of the world’s most powerful business figures and global corporations are going to to avoid paying tax. As this is happening, there are ads on television – I’m sure you’ve seen them – where the federal government is saying that they’re now collecting billions of dollars more from companies like this, who have tax havens or who were avoiding tax. In fact, this morning on our 9am bulletin, they were suggesting that there’s over $3 billion – Scott Morrison, the Treasurer, said we’re getting good at this, we’re collection a lot more money. Let’s talk to the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Andrew, thanks for joining us today.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure, Leon. Great to be with you.

BYNER: Are we doing well in this collecting taxes that should be paid or is there a long way to go?

LEIGH: Leon, there’s a long way to go on this. We have a Treasurer who wants to give huge tax cuts to multinationals and at the same time wants to raise taxes on average workers. Labor doesn’t think that’s fair. We’ve got a strong history on multinational tax. We put in place the laws which accounted for most of that $4 billion that the Treasurer refers to. The irony is, Leon, that the Treasurer voted against those laws in Parliament when Labor introduced them in 2012-13.

BYNER: We’ve got them now, so are you saying that the laws need to be even more rigorous?

LEIGH: Absolutely. With regard to tax havens, which will be the focus on the Four Corners investigation tonight, Labor believes that if a public company has dealings in a tax haven then they ought to disclose that to shareholders as a material risk. If you want to go for a government tender, Labor believes that you ought to disclose your country of tax domicile. We want to see more transparency and tougher laws. We’ve got a package of reforms on the table to close multinational tax loopholes and bring in more than $4 billion over the course of the next decade. 

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Time for Turnbull to step up on tax havens - Media Release


Almost 20 multinational companies are under investigation by the Australian Tax Office the latest tax avoidance scandal unveiled by international reporters today.

Until the Government commits to a comprehensive Tax Haven Transparency package - as Labor has - the public is going to rely on Paradise Papers style leaks to expose the murky use of tax havens.

But the Turnbull Government is more likely devoting their energy to a scare campaign about public information about who uses these tax havens and how much tax they pay.

Malcolm Turnbull’s team won’t commit to making companies that are bidding for government contracts state where they pay tax - so the public knows where their money really goes - and they won’t commit to rewards for whistleblowers who do the right thing.

These were two of the measures Labor has already publicly backed as part of its plan for a fair tax system, announced six months ago.

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Reducing the cost of international remittances - Media Release






In Australia, many people work long hours to send money back to family overseas.

According to the World Bank, remittances to developing countries are worth half a trillion dollars annually – twice the value of foreign aid.

These people deserve a safe and secure way for people to send money which doesn’t involve large portions being eaten up by fees from financial institutions.

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A mess of Malcolm Turnbull's making - Transcript, Sky News Agenda





SUBJECTS: High Court decision and Barnaby Joyce breaking the law, Queensland  election, Labor’s positive trade agenda, Choosing Openness.

KIERAN GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. That will be Labor’s focus, won’t it, to try to break off one of those members of the Coalition under the final sitting fortnight when it arrives at the end of November?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, we’re strong champions of the issues that we were elected to parliament to work on – issues like defending penalty rates, making sure that Australians have a clean environment and renewable jobs. We won’t stop our forceful advocacy of those issues just because the government is in crisis. This is entirely of their own making. They were warned months back that Barnaby Joyce ought to step down as a minister as soon as his citizenship was in doubt. But Malcolm Turnbull thought that he knew better than the High Court and he’s once again proven that maxim that a man who would be his own lawyer has a fool for a client.  The High Court said very clearly that Malcolm Turnbull’s confidence was misplaced. Now, many ministerial decisions are up in the air.

GILBERT: So, in relation to Labor’s approach though, you can reassure our viewers this morning that it won’t be about simply trying to bring down the government? Because as I said, if there were to be a vote on relation to restoring penalty rates or indeed even a bank royal commission, that would be so damaging to the government. To lose control of the floor in that way would be the end of the government, essentially – it would be a vote of no confidence, essentially.

LEIGH: Kieran, our focus is on getting good outcomes for the people of Australia. Australians want decent penalty rates on weekends. They believe - from every study I’ve seen, Australians believe that those working on weekends should be paid fairly for their services. They believe the banks should be held to account through a Royal Commission. We’ll pursue those issues as strongly as ever, because that’s what we were elected to parliament to do – to focus on reducing inequality and bring about a fairer Australia.

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Fenner Lecture 2017 - OpEd, The Chronicle

Fenner Lecture 2017

The Chronicle, October 24 2017

Not many genetic researchers can tango, but for Australian National University scientist Carola Vinuesa, it’s a welcome break from long hours in the laboratory.

Professor Vinuesa’s work on autoimmune diseases is vital for helping people with conditions such as type 1 diabetes and lupus. She has won a plethora of prizes, including the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year and the Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship for biomedical research.  And if that wasn’t enough, Spanish-born Professor Vinuesa has worked as a doctor in India and Ghana.

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Federation Chamber Adjournment - Broadband


26 OCTOBER 2017

On a warm spring evening nearly 100 Canberrans gathered at the Belconnen Community Centre recently to discuss with Tara Cheyne MLA and me ways they use broadband and the challenges many of them are facing in getting a decent connection. In days gone by, fast internet was a luxury, but it's becoming a necessity. We don't just stream videos; we use fast internet to watch university lectures and for grandparents and their grandkids to stay in touch. Speedy internet is like water and electricity: a utility that we expect to be there when we need it.

Yet there were many troubling stories. One constituent said that when their child's internet was too slow to do their homework it meant that the child had to stay up late to finish it and sometimes ended up falling asleep in class the next day. A parent of a university student told us:

My daughter drives into university at night because our home connection is too slow. I worry about her returning to a deserted campus in the late hours and spending long periods alone in computer labs, but it's the only way she can get the speed she needs to get the core coursework done.

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Free trade is hard but better than the alternative - OpEd, The Daily Telegraph

Free trade is hard but better than the alternative

The Daily Telegraph, 27 October 2017

In February, President Trump gave a speech at a Boeing factory, lauding the launch of the newest model Dreamliner. He told the crowd: ‘This plane, as you know, was built right here in the great state of South Carolina. Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made right here in the USA.’

But the Dreamliner wasn’t just made in America. Sections of the fuselage are Italian and Korean. Parts of the wings are Australian and Japanese. The landing gear is British, the cargo doors are Swedish, and the passenger doors are French. Four out of five Dreamliners will be exported and all will be used for international travel. The Dreamliner is of the world, by the world, and for the world. Few products better epitomise globalisation.

World trade is just another form of comparative advantage, letting countries specialise in what they do best. Look at any individual transaction, and you will see benefits to both the importer and the exporter. After all, unless both buyer and seller were better off, the sale wouldn’t happen. Just as your hairdresser doesn’t defeat you when you get a haircut, Japan doesn’t defeat you when you buy a PlayStation. Sellers aren’t vanquishing buyers – both are benefiting from specialisation.

What are the risks of protectionism? On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly threatened to impose tariffs as a way of discouraging firms from moving manufacturing production to countries such as Mexico. Thankfully, the United States has not yet implemented these threatened 45 per cent tariffs. But we can get some insights into what the effects might be from the contrasting experiences of Argentina and Korea.

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Michaelia Cash needs to step down - Transcript, PVO NewsDay





SUBJECTS: Michaelia Cash, AWU, Multinational tax avoidance.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: To continue discussing this as well as some wider issues in his portfolio, I’m joined now by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh. Thanks very much for your company.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure, Peter. Great to be with you.

VAN ONSELEN: Forget to shave this morning?

LEIGH: It’s apparently all the rage. I’m following in the footsteps of your regular Sky guests Chris Bowen, Ed Husic, Stephen Jones. All the cool kids seem to be doing it.

VAN ONSELEN: [laughter] Is that the best you can do building a beard? We’ll move on, there are some very serious issues to be discussed. We will get to some of the issues in your portfolio around the government, in your words, not delivering a cent on multinational tax avoidance. Something that, if you like, has been overshadowed by the bigger news which is where I have to start. Michaelia Cash – Labor believes that she should resign because of the inappropriate actions of her staff. When’s Penny Wong going to resign over the inappropriate actions of her staff, vis-à-vis the New Zealanders?

LEIGH: Peter, it’s a ridiculous comparison. You know as well as I do that we’re talking about tipping off the media to a police raid. This is extraordinarily serious stuff and frankly, if the issue here was destroying documents, how much more ham-fisted can it be than to send the press along beforehand? Imagine the scene outside the AWU offices – ‘What are you television reporters doing here? Oh, we’re here for the police raid. Really? Why is the police raid happening? Well, it’s happening to make sure you don’t destroy documents’. I mean, this is public maladministration of the first order. Michaelia Cash needs to step down.

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