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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 3984

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (20:42): I rise also to speak briefly on the Tax Laws Amendment (Countering Tax Avoidance and Multinational Profit Shifting) Bill 2013. As Senator Cormann has so correctly pointed out, it is an absolute abrogation of democracy, and abrogation of due process, that we have been given around 20 minutes to discuss this bill in this place. These bills, as Senator Cormann rightly pointed out, are tax laws which have a far-reaching impact. They are bills which have been put forward and elicited a response from experts in the tax field—as outlined by Senator Cormann—who work with tax every day, whose agenda is nothing other than ensuring that we have a tax system that works well, is fair and equitable, and is reasonable in terms of protecting the revenue but also reasonable in protecting the rights of taxpayers. These people and organisations have all consistently raised objections about these bills. They have noted that these tax laws are far-reaching, that they are an overreaction to tax office losses in court, that they impose a huge increase in uncertainty and in compliance costs and that they also, to some degree, have retrospective tax implications. All of this together suggests that there should be far more than 20 minutes discussion in this place on these bills.

But that is what we are facing in this place this week. We are facing a total abrogation of normal democratic principles. We are seeing over 50 bills rammed through this place in one week with the use of the guillotine on every single one of them and with inadequate debate on most of them. This bill is one that deserves a proper debate. It is not the first time that we have seen this gagging by this government. By the end of this week it will have managed to force through well over 200 bills without proper debate and by using the guillotine at the end.

There are a lot of things I would like to say, and I have pages and pages of detailed analysis of this bill. I was the deputy chair at the inquiry and a lot of issues were raised. I will try and run through a couple of things, but there is no point trying to go through it in detail because the time I have been allotted is totally inadequate and I could not even touch the surface. I also want to give Senator Sinodinos a few minutes to speak. I would, however, like to note that the coalition is always supportive of actions that strengthen anti-avoidance measures and is against multinational profit shifting.

As Senator Cormann has already pointed out, the coalition have a strong and proud record of improving and upholding the integrity of our business tax system and international taxation arrangements. However, we remain concerned that this bill represents an overreaction, will not necessarily increase compliance and other costs, and should not be supported in this place tonight. Once again the Senate has before it a poorly drafted piece of legislation that has been constructed with minimal stakeholder consultation. To the extent that stakeholder consultation occurred, it does not appear to have been listened to. It is a bill that will impose further red tape on businesses that are already drowning in a plethora of restrictive and costly regulation that has been imposed upon them by the Rudd and Gillard government.

The government did not allow the bill proper scrutiny in the other chamber. They blocked the opportunity for the House committee to have a public hearing into this legislation and they required that committee to complete its report only on the papers. We were fortunate in this place to achieve a Senate inquiry. We did hold a hearing, and at that hearing we heard from the stakeholders, which Senator Cormann mentioned, and others regarding the serious concerns and issues that the bill contains, which remain unaddressed to this day.

I am conscious of the fact that Senator Sinodinos also wants to say a few words on this, so I would encourage those listening to this debate to have a look at the dissenting report to the inquiry that was prepared by the coalition senators. We go through some of the issues that were raised, including the need for further consideration and consultation before this bill is passed.