DOORSTOP - CHRIS BOWEN & ANDREW LEIGH
THURSDAY, 3 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Dodgy Liberal Party-Greens deal to water down tax transparency measures.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well thanks for coming.
Overnight the Liberal Party and the Greens Party engaged in a backroom deal to let Australia's large private companies continue to avoid tax transparency.
Let's be very clear; the Turnbull Government has been for whatever reason desperate to see large private companies continue to avoid scrutiny and transparency when it comes to the amount of tax they pay.
Now they have a new Coalition partner in Richard Di Natale’s Greens. The Australian Greens under Richard Di Natale’s leadership are the tax transparency traitors of Australian politics, traitors to those Australians who want to see everybody paying their fair of tax.
They've become the gutless Greens.
The Government was prepared to hold their own legislation hostage in order to avoid the transparency and scrutiny that the Australian tax system needs. Now let's see how we got here; the previous Government, the Labor Government identified this problem. It's clear that tax transparency improves behaviour, tax transparency where large private companies know that they will be held to account for the amount of tax they pay will change behaviour.
We know from evidence from the Australian Tax Office that one in five private companies with turnover over $100 million paid zero tax. The Greens and the Liberals have conspired together to see that situation continue. We remember that the Government has engaged in all sorts of excuses and claimed that this would lead to kidnappings, then it became clear under sustained Labor questioning that no such advice had been provided to the Government, they invented it. Then we had the astro turf campaign, remember the ‘community campaign’ so-called which called for this law to be dropped. It turns out it was a complete and total fabrication and fraud and the Greens have fallen for that fraud.
Well the Government has played Richard Di Natale like a banjo on this issue. He's fallen for their tactics and he has sold out the Australian people.
Well, the Labor Party will stand firm, the Labor Party will hold true to its position as I understand other crossbench Senators will do. The situation is that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose in the Senate, that is not the issue here. The issue is your values, the issue is what you stand for and what you believe in.
What is clear today is that the Australian Greens and the Australians Liberals believe in the same thing, less tax transparency. The Australian Greens, for whatever reason Richard Di Natale has chosen has sold out his former leader, Christine Milne, who was active on this issue and helped initiate the multinational tax inquiry, Senator Whish-Wilson who is active on this issue and until recently stood firm with Labor, and sold out those Australians who are angry and annoyed about multinational tax and a lack of tax transparency from private companies.
I’m going to ask the Shadow Assistant Treasurer to add to my remarks and then we’ll take your questions.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much Chris.
This is a dirty deal done very expensive.
If we go back to 2013, Labor ensured there was tax transparency by requiring the ATO to publish the total income, the taxable income and tax paid, by companies with turnover over $100 million. The first report is due to be filed on 14 December this year. Then in October, following an astro turf campaign, following really, what might have just have been an idea dreamed up after the second cherry in the Melbourne Club, the Coalition pushed changes through the Senate that saw private companies excluded from tax transparency.
Two weeks ago, the Senate sought to restore the previous tax transparency laws. Labor, the Greens and a number of independent senators, demanded that the Government bring the tax transparency threshold back to $100 million for all companies so as not to increase the complexity in the system and to ensure that private and public companies were treated alike.
Now, as a result of this backflip, two out of three of every one of the private companies that would have been caught in the tax transparency net will be taken out. By moving the threshold from $100 million to $200 million, we estimate that the number of private companies effected by tax transparency falls from around 900 to around 300. 600 companies will be left out of the tax transparency net. Labor supports tax transparency because we know with sunlight comes better behaviour. We know that one in five firms don’t pay tax, we know that better behaviour will ensure better tax compliance.
Let’s be absolutely clear, everyday Australian households will pay more tax as a result of this dodgy deal between the Liberals and the Greens.
We’re happy to take your questions.
JOURNALIST: The Greens argue there would be nothing at the end of the day if they hadn’t of done a deal with the…
BOWEN: The Greens have blinked. Let’s be clear here. The Government was engaging in brinkmanship, that is true, anybody can engage in brinkmanship. The Government was holding their own legislation hostage. The Government said it wouldn’t pass its own multinational tax bill if the Senate insisted on these amendments. That was the Government’s position, that was not a sustainable position, not a sustainable position, holding your own legislation hostage. That was a tactic on behalf of the Government, one that Senator Di Natale fell for hook, line and sinker. He fell for the Governments tactics.
Now as I’ve said, if that’s the way Richard Di Natale plays poker, I’m happy to play with him anytime because he clearly doesn’t understand brinkmanship and he’s just a bleat and in doing so has sold out the issue of tax transparency.
JOURNALIST: But equally you were playing brinkmanship too right and will your Senators vote ‘no’ if this comes to a vote?
BOWEN: Well we’ll continue to maintain our position. We’ve never had a problem with the multinational tax bill. We’ve always said that the multinational tax bill was one that would enjoy our support, we don’t think it will go far enough. We don’t think it’s as robust as our multinational tax policy but it’s something. The issue here is the amendments and we will continue to hold to our position. The Opposition and I make no apologies for insisting on the amendments which up until today had enjoyed the support of the Senate and the support of the Greens. They are the ones who have changed position, they are the ones who have to be held to account for their position.
JOURNALIST: Did you have an arrangement or agreement with the Greens because you’ve labelled Richard Di Natale a traitor and a fish and banjo player and a bad poker player?
BOWEN: Let’s be clear, not a traitor to us, a traitor to the Australian people who want tax transparency.
JOURNALIST: But you seem to have had a firm indication that they wouldn’t swing?
BOWEN: Well we had a policy that they agreed with. They’ve changed their position overnight. This is the point I’m making. It’s not a matter of us, that’s not the issue here. The issue is how they’ve dealt with the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, isn’t one of the reasons this is a big problem now is because the initial tax disclosure bill got through the parliament, back in October, accidently because of collapse of the speaking list? Isn’t that, looking back, a big blunder?
BOWEN: Well I think Joe, you’re missing something there. What you’re missing is that this amendment passed successfully. Remember Scott Morrison had a big dummy spit when he said; ‘this should never have happened this way.’ The Labor party and the crossbench combined to attach this to the multinational tax bill quite legitimately, signed off by the normal parliamentary processes in the Senate. So that was the status-quo position. So it’s not a matter of previous bills, this bill had this attached successfully by the Senate.
Okay, thanks very much.