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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11614

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (18:23): Deputy Speaker Kelly, I heard your contribution on this debate earlier on. I will resist the temptation to reflect on it. I would not want to anger the Deputy Speaker in any way. It is interesting that we are talking about these matters. I got married in Gibraltar about a year ago, and Gibraltar is a very, very lovely place.

Government members interjecting

Mr CHAMPION: It is a wonderful place to go to. It was, of course, a noted military base during the Second World War, as I know the member for Batman would be very, very interested to hear. My honourable friend opposite, the member for Riverina, says that Fiona was a very lucky woman to marry me there in Gibraltar.

The interesting thing about Gibraltar is that it has been accused of being a tax haven, and one of the election policies that the Labour Party in Britain had was to force Britain's overseas territories, such as Gibraltar, to declare, for transparency purposes, all of the companies that are listed there as shell companies for taxation purposes. It is interesting that a place as lovely as Gibraltar—and I cannot recommend it enough both as a place to get married and also a place to visit—

Mr Feeney: I think that Spain wants it back.

Mr CHAMPION: With all due respect to my Spanish friends, as the member for Batman helps me out there—but it is a really wonderful place but a place where there is this tax haven issue. I guess that that is why this bill is before the House and the opposition's amendment is before the House. When we were in government, we were pretty much the only people talking about this. I remember the Assistant Treasurer—the former member for Lindsay, out Penrith way—David Bradbury, being really a lone voice, in many ways, taking on this issue and talking about it. His work goes on, as he is now working with the OECD.

We know that workers, on average, pay about 21 per cent tax; we know that small businesses pay around 30 per cent tax. All of the workers and the small businesses that I meet in my electorate want to do their fair share, because they live and work in the community. Often they do more than their fair share. They go out and do civic works. Many small businesses donate their time and money to good causes in the electorate. You see these Australians wanting to give back to the local schools and to the local hospitals to make sure that this is a strong country. I do not think that it is unreasonable to expect that those multinational companies, whether they be Australian or internationally based, do the same thing—that they do not just pay what they miserly reduce out of the system, but that they pay their fair share. There have been many, many examples given. Apple has been a notable example. They have $6 billion worth of revenue, and they are paying $40 million of tax or something like that—about the same amount as Harvey Norman. You think to yourself that that clearly does not make sense, and you know that there is something wrong when that can occur.

During the mining tax debate—we have had that debate many times in this chamber, so I will not till salted ground—we had mining companies out there, through the Minerals Council of Australia, bragging about the contribution that they make in terms of taxation, yet we find that they are often engaging in taxation arrangements that would make you blush. The reason why they have been so aggrieved, behind the scenes, about the economics committee of the other place, led ably by Senator Dastyari, and the reason why there are so many complaints about the good senator is that he is doing a good job. He is revealing to Australians some of the egregious practices that have been going on for decades.

We only have to look to James Hardie to know that that is true. There was a company that made a terribly toxic product, the consequences of which we are seeing even today and which we will go on seeing for years. I think what happened with asbestos is a matter of bipartisan condemnation. Of course, what happened with James Hardie is that they went to the Netherlands seeking not just to evade their liabilities but also to find a more allowable taxation culture. To give you the extent of the problem, the Taxation Office thinks that about half of the $300 billion a year that is transferred in and out of the country—some $115 billion—might be subject to these arrangements. So you can see an extraordinary amount of money sloshing through an economy that is internationalised, and we want it to be internationalised. We want these companies to come here and we want them to make a profit, but we also want them to pay their fair share of tax.

The government has done some good things in this bill. I think my predecessor in this debate has talked about, and probably the member for Hindmarsh, who follows me, will talk about the descriptions of the measures in the bill, the significant global entity provisions aimed at some of these big entities and the multinational avoidance law allowing the taxation office to see through complex taxation arrangements that are set up as a shell game—pea and thimble trick—in order to reduce taxation. The penalties are doubled, which is a good thing, and country-by-country reporting of course is a critical part of the OECD's action plan on base erosion and profit shifting. We think they are useful things to do so we are supporting the bill.

But we also want the government to adopt Labor's plan to raise about $7 billion worth of taxation off of multinationals to close down some of the loopholes around interest deduction. We all know that, with the intangible nature of the digital economy, payments between Australian subsidiaries and the international parent company have been allowed to grow exponentially and unreasonably because of the values associated with licensing, intellectual property and the like. We want them to do a very simple thing—that is, come to the table. We are supporting them; they could support us. The Australian taxpayer and the Australian community would be the victor. They would be the ones to get better schools, better hospitals. Of course every dollar not paid by a multinational—and we only want them to pay their fair share—is a dollar less that the average pay-as-you-earn taxpayer has to pay or the small business has to pay or it is one more brick in a school or hospital that we want to see.

To conclude—I will not delay the House's time any longer—we want to visit places like Gibraltar and, I guess, Ugland House, if you are tempted to go there, in the Cayman Islands because of their intrinsic beauty and maybe their lax marriage laws—I do not know; Gibraltar is a great price to elope to. As I said before, I recommend it to anyone. We want them renowned for their marriage laws and not for being tax havens. Again, we want these places not to be famous for being the recipients of all of this money sloshing around the world. We want that money to work as it normally would.. It is important that companies make profits but it is also important that companies pay a fair share of tax office off of that, not just simply for this country but for every country around the world, so that we can progress the cause of humanity.