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Monday, 15 June 2020
Page: 4335


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (11:55): We're calling on all members of this House to support the amendments. They're considered amendments, and they are important amendments. For the life of me, I don't know why the government hasn't explained why they won't be supporting them. Let me go to the details. The Senate, when it considered this bill on Friday, moved a series of amendments which would remove an anomaly in the corporations legislation that enables approximately 1,000 large proprietary companies to avoid the obligation of reporting and providing those reports to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. This is a carry-over from the original incorporations arrangements dating back to the mid-1990s. At the time that the grandfathered arrangements were put in place, it was actually a Liberal member in the other place who pointed out these should be a short-term arrangement, and that there should be a review conducted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It was the expectation of all members that these exclusions would be removed from the law over time.

When this matter was debated in the other place, the minister was invited on a number of occasions to explain to the Senate and to the Australian people the public interest case for this exemption. Not on one occasion but on several occasions it was put squarely to the minister to explain what the public interest case is for these exemptions. It was pointed out that, of the long list of companies that are covered by this exemption, quite a number of them are donors to the Liberal Party. I don't say that that is the reason that the government is today so adamantly resisting these amendments. But it does raise a question about why the government does not accept what on the face of it is a very sensible amendment.

It's not just the Labor Party and it's not just the crossbenchers who have thrown their support behind these amendments. In fact, in the Senate Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into tax avoidance and minimisation, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission itself has recommended that these amendments should be removed. In its submission to that inquiry, No. 32, ASIC pointed out that these amendments really had no further work to do, and that they in fact created an inequity between certain forms of incorporated businesses. There is an important point here. When public companies produce reports on their financial arrangements and lodge them with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, not only does it make that information available to the public at large but it also enables the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Taxation Office to ensure that all affairs are in order in relation to taxation payments. A lack of financial transparency is one of the mechanisms by which large corporates in this country are able to avoid paying tax. So, if the minister and the government are opposing these amendments, it's important that they explain why. They should explain to the Australian people why it is more important to continue an outdated protection for around 1,000 large proprietary companies, many of whom are political donors. Why is it more important that those companies continue to enjoy that exclusion from the reporting requirements?

If they vote against these provisions today, they are saying quite clearly that those other provisions of the bill which go to providing relief to financial advisers are less important to members of the Liberal Party—that it is less important to members of the Liberal Party to provide the relief in relation to professional qualifications than it is for them to continue to protect the interests and the lack of transparency for these large proprietary companies. It's up to members of the Liberal Party to make the case as to why this should continue. They've failed to do it to date.