Halting the havens
The Canberra Times, 14 December 2017
We often say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But for some multinational firms, their tax affairs often do.
In May 2013, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook was being grilled by US Senators about the nature and structure of his company’s tax affairs.
Those Senators were scrutinising a complex corporate structure, and how Apple had come to amass over $100 billion of largely untaxed profits offshore. Mr Cook’s retort to the subcommittee was ‘We don’t depend on tax gimmicks… We don’t stash money on some Caribbean island’.
As the New York Times reported after the release of the Paradise Papers: ‘True enough. The island Apple would soon rely on was in the English Channel’.
Jersey, to be precise.
Like millions of Australians, my life is better as a result of using Apple products. But I want the company to succeed based on product innovation, not tax innovation.Read more
TIME FOR TURNBULL TO GET TOUGH ON TAX HAVENS AND MULTINATIONAL TAX AVOIDANCE
One in three large firms still pay no tax in Australia.
Data issued by the Australian Taxation Office at 5pm today showed that 732 out of the 2043 companies examined failed to pay any tax the 2015-16 tax year. The companies that paid no tax include 108 firms reporting more than $1 billion in total income.
These figures highlight the failure of the Turnbull Government to make our tax system fairer. The only reason we know that 36 per cent of companies failed to pay any tax is because of Labor’s tax transparency laws, which passed the Parliament in 2013 amid objections from the Coalition.
Despite this, Malcolm Turnbull and his team still believe that cutting company tax rates – and punishing working and middle class families in the process - should be Australia’s top economic priority.
It does not get more out of touch than this.Read more
GARY JOHNS IS UNFIT TO LEAD THE CHARITY REGULATOR
Appointing Gary Johns to head the Australian Charities and Not For Profits Commission is like putting Ned Kelly in charge of the nation’s bank security.
Johns has been a trenchant critic of charities throughout his career. His appointment signals a major escalation in the Turnbull Government’s war on charities, and shows that Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews still run the Liberal Party
Announcing the appointment, Minister Sukkar admitted that he hadn’t read Gary Johns’ work. For the Minister’s benefit, here’s a few things he may have missed.
‘There is a great deal of impure altruism in the charity business’
- Gary Johns, The Charity Ball, 2014
‘The idea of public benefit needs to be trimmed and tested’
- Gary Johns, The Charity Ball, 2014
“The Abbott Government… should deny charity status to the enemies of progress”
- The Australian, 2 December 2014
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 7 DECEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government’s decision to appoint charity critic Gary Johns as head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, ANDREW LEIGH: Thank you for coming out this morning, my name is Andrew Leigh and I am the Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits. We're seeing today the latest salvo on the Government's war on charities. Since coming to office, the Abbott and Turnbull Governments have attempted to destroy the charities commission, a body recommended by more than a dozen independent inquiries and supported by more than four out of five charities. From 2011 to 2016 the Coalition tried to destroy it. Over the period that they have been in office, the Government has had no fewer than five different ministers responsible for the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).
Their war on charities has been waged on multiple fronts. They've tried to take charities law back to the 1600s. They've tried to get rid of the charities commission, they've tried to shut down the ability of environmental and legal charities to advocate. They put gag clauses in social services agreements. There's no wonder that we've seen two open letters from the sector calling on the Government to stop their war on charities. Only last week, 25 charities heads were here in Canberra calling on the Turnbull Government to stop attacking charities.
Indeed, we've seen under Michael Sukkar, the fifth minister responsible for the ACNC, bumbling ineptitude. He failed to meet with the board of the charities commission. He failed to reappoint Susan Pascoe - a broadly respected head of the charities commission who the minister today acknowledged had been doing “a good job”.
But the appointment of Gary Johns to head the charities commission takes the war on charities to a whole new level.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2017
I have spoken half a dozen times in this parliament in support of marriage equality.
As an economist, we are often faced with public -policy decisions that involve trade-offs: one group made better off while another group is made worse off. This is, to my great delight, not one of those debates. This is a moment where a group of Australians will be made better off. Australians in same-sex relationships will have the opportunity to wed, and no-one will be made worse off.
Heterosexual marriages, like my own, will not be weakened. Indeed, some may be strengthened, given that, as we know, some heterosexual couples have held off tying the knot until marriage equality becomes reality.Read more
Christmas not always a happy time
The Chronicle, 5 December 2017
It’s not just a schmaltzy song lyric.
According to daily happiness surveys conducted by Gallup, Christmas Day really is the happiest day of the year, with 66 percent reporting maximum enjoyment and minimum stress.
But for some, it’s the reverse. One in twenty people report they don’t have enough money to afford gifts for friends and family. For others, Christmas is a poignant reminder of loss.Read more
MONDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2017
Last week, by a vote of 51 to 49, the US Senate passed a major corporate tax cut.
The bill has several similarities with the corporate tax cut being debated here. A survey by the University of Chicago found that 37 out of 38 US economists said the GOP bill would increase the deficit. The 38th later said they didn't understand the question.
In Australia, an Economic Society of Australia survey of 31 economists found two-thirds agreeing that ‘Australia will receive a bigger economic growth dividend in the long run by spending on education than by offering an equivalent amount in a tax cut to business’. Treasury's own estimates say that the government's big-business company tax cut would deliver only a 0.1 per cent increase in personal income - in the 2030s.Read more
MONDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2017
Two and half weeks ago I joined Canberrans in a park near my office as we waited for the results of the vote on marriage equality.
The results were overwhelming.
Compared with the 62 per cent vote nationally, 74 per cent of Canberrans supported same-sex marriage, making the ACT not just the OECD's most livable region, not just a Lonely Planet a must-visit destination, but also the state or territory in Australia with the highest support for same-sex marriage.
But these figures don't tell the full story.Read more
Poverty in Canberra
The RiotACT, 29 November 2017
A couple of years ago, a newly appointed public servant was giving an interview to a business magazine. ‘Everybody is happy’, he said. Then he went on ‘in Canberra in particular, everybody is deliriously happy and comfortable.’
I thought of this interview when my team last cooked a barbecue for residents of the Early Morning Centre on Northbourne Avenue, which provides meals, health care and social support to city residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Looking in the eyes of the men and women at the centre, I saw a lot of resilience, but can’t say that everyone appeared deliriously happy.
The two toughest things about poverty in Canberra are icy winters and high housing costs. Not long ago, I met a woman who told me that she wore two beanies in her home, because she couldn’t afford to turn the heating up. Another constituent who came to my office told me about her struggle to pay rising rents on a fixed income.Read more
TIME TO STOP THE WAR ON CHARITIES
Today, the heads of 25 respected Australian charities are in Canberra, speaking out against the latest attack on the sector by the Turnbull Government.
This comes after two open letters to the Prime Minister from charities concerned about the way that this important sector is being treated.
From its inception in 2011 until the middle of last year, the Coalition tried to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, a body recommended by more than a dozen independent inquiries, and supported by the vast majority of the sector.
Since coming to office, the Coalition has had no fewer than five ministers responsible for the charities commission. The latest hapless minister, Michael Sukkar, refused to meet with respected charities commission head Susan Pascoe and her fellow commissioners, then announced that Ms Pascoe would not be reappointed. Months on, we are still awaiting her replacement.Read more