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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2281


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (10:31): The coalition is seeking to amend the Tax Administration Act 1953. These amendments are intended to remove any doubt that taxation officers may disclose to the minister information about instalments of minerals resource rent tax paid in an instalment year in any MRRT year or the total amount of MRRT paid in that year where the information is provided for the purpose of the minister making the information publicly available.

The amendments will protect taxpayer confidentiality. The amendments will not require disclosure of information about the tax affairs of a particular entity. Instead, the amendments will permit taxation officers to disclose information to the minister that relates only to the total amount of minerals resource rent tax instalments paid whether in a quarter or quarters or in that year. It is intended that the amendments will permit taxation officers to disclose such information without committing an offence should the disclosure have the effect of inadvertently identifying a taxpayer.

The bill also compels the minister to table a report updating the houses of the parliament within six sitting days of receiving information from the ATO of proceeds received under the act. Information about the amounts of instalments paid for particular quarters or the total amount paid for a year is information that should be available to the parliament and to the public. Revenue cannot be raised and money cannot be spent without the approval of this parliament. In turn, the parliament is entitled to the information it requires to scrutinise both revenue and expenditure proposals and performance. Any argument to the contrary is insupportable in a representative democracy. This government will now have no excuse when it comes to disclosing the total revenue that is being raised by their failed mining tax.

My private member's bill should not be necessary. The government was quite happy to promise full monthly updates on the mining tax when it did a deal with the Greens to ensure the passage of the legislation through the Senate. But then it seemed to have no qualms about breaking that deal when it became clear that the mining tax was not going to raise anything near the expected revenue.

The government has published seven monthly financial statements since the mining tax commenced on 1 July last year. Not one of the statements has separately identified the MRRT. The best the government can do is to amalgamate the mining tax revenue with the petroleum resource rent tax. We know the mining tax raised $126 million in its first two quarters, because we dragged the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, kicking and screaming to a press conference. You could see him being dragged along with his nails scratching the ground. He was dragged along to the press conference and he disclosed, 'Good news, Australia: the mining tax has raised $126 million in the first six months.' He only did that because we announced that we were introducing this bill; it just happened to coincide with the timing of our announcement of this bill. We thought there would have been continued disclosure going forward; but, no, the January financial statements once again amalgamated the mining tax with the PRRT revenues, so the period of transparency was brief. It was, to use John Howard's great term in a different context, 'five minutes of sunshine'.

To be fair to the Treasurer—and this is a rare moment, I know, so I want everyone to pay attention—I can understand why he does not want to reveal the proceeds of the mining tax. It is because it has had five different structures with seven sets of revenue estimates, and he is a little embarrassed. He is hoping that no-one will notice that only he could introduce a tax that raises hardly any revenue. Not even the Greeks are capable of that. And, by the way, it not only brought down one Prime Minister, but, gee, if events go the way they might this week, it might bring down two. The man is a genius; that is why they describe him as the world's best Treasurer. He introduces taxes that do not get money. That is a gift. In fact, it would not surprise me if he were the pin-up boy of a number of magazines other than Euromoney, given that he is introducing taxes that hardly raise any money.

The original resource superprofits tax was estimated to raise $12 billion in its first two years. The revenue estimates have been progressively reduced. The latest version was meant to raise $4.4 billion over two years. As I said, it has raised $126 million in its first six months. It was meant to raise $2 billion this year. The excuse being used for nondisclosure is that the Australian Taxation Office will not tell the Treasurer how much tax has been raised for fear of breaching division 355 of the Taxation Administration Act, which forbids disclosure of an individual entity's affairs.

I have got no problem with the ATO maintaining confidentiality of taxpayers' affairs. We all want that; I think that is perfectly reasonable. No-one is asking how much mining tax individual companies have paid. We are not asking that. We are simply wanting to find out how much money the tax has raised—that is all. And we want to know whether the government is going to keep its agreement with the Greens. I am sure the member for Melbourne would want to know that as well, because he must feel dudded by this incompetent Labor government—only on this area, because I think it has followed a lot of Green policy in other areas. He was given a written commitment from the Prime Minister that there would be monthly updates, even though this tax is paid quarterly. It is rather confronting that the government would agree to give monthly updates on a quarterly tax, but that just shows how it is not across its own tax.

What concerns us is that the government linked expenditure of $15 billion over the forward estimates to mining tax revenue. When they announced the mining tax, not only did they keep revising down the revenue but they maintained the original expenditure against it—$15 billion. They wonder they have a black hole. As has been revealed today by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, there is an expectation that the deficit this year could be $20 billion—$20 billion after old buggerlugs, the Treasurer, promised a $1.5 billion surplus.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Grierson ): The member knows he should refer to people by their correct titles.

Mr HOCKEY: I am sorry; I should not use such flattering terms. The Treasurer promised a $1.5 billion surplus and he is delivering what looks to be a $20 billion deficit. Now we know why the Treasurer refused to rule out increasing the cap on government debt, which he said would not exceed $250 billion at the end of any one year—because, in the view of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the gross debt could be $294 billion this year, perilously close to the $300 billion that the Treasurer said last time would never be reached. Here we have a Treasurer that has introduced a mining tax and, as the member for Griffith has so helpfully reminded us on numerous occasions, it was all the member for Lilley's work. The member for Griffith was the one that paid the price, but it was the member for Lilley's work introducing this mining tax package. Five versions of the mining tax, seven sets of revenue estimates and now they will not tell us how much it has actually raised.

This is a test for the crossbenchers as much as anyone else. This is about basic transparency on a particular tax. All we are asking is that the government disclose how much tax is being collected. That is all. The mining tax is a contentious tax and the issue is: how much is being raised? In their monthly statements they should disclose that in the same way they do for every other individual tax. Instead, they wrap it up with the PRRT and it means that the parliament is being snowed under by red tape and obfuscation. This bill will change that. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: In accordance with standing order 41(d), the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.