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Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Page: 2603

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (18:12): The bill should not be postponed. Parliament should debate the matter which is before the House for the reasons that were set out in minister's second reading speech. I've got to say that, when the minister came into this place and introduced a bill which is going to address the problem of multinational tax avoidance, I did not doubt for a moment that he was genuine. But I did doubt his commitment, because this government has form on avoiding bills that deal with multinational tax avoidance.

We all remember their great announcements in the last budget. We were going to address this $13 billion problem of multinational tax avoidance, and I want you to remember that number—$13 billion worth of tax avoidance. That's the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme budget. That's what we're talking about. That's what we're putting off—an amount of money equivalent to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme budget. They told us that they were going to set up a task force: 'We're going to have a task force to drill down into the issue and chase down the $13 billion worth of multinational tax avoidance.' It sounds good. It sounds very good. It sounds like something that every member in this House would, I'm sure, get behind. But a few weeks ago we learnt—like so much that this bloke from the marketing department puts out—that there was no task force. The task force didn't exist. It was all spin and marketing from the champion of spin and marketing. And we see it again today: a bill brought before the House that is going to deal with a $13 billion problem.

There are a lot of members in the House at the moment. When I looked across the chamber, I thought, 'This is good. We're going to get a speech from each and every one of them about how committed they are to addressing the scourge of multinational tax avoidance—$13 billion worth every year—and the things that they could put their money towards in their electorates.' I'd have been very interested to hear those speeches. I wondered why all of these members were in the House, and I was certain that they were here to talk about multinational tax avoidance. But, instead of that, they're all lined up to shut down debate. What is it that they're going to put ahead of this in the parliamentary agenda? I'm sure they don't even know the answer to that. They are here to once again gag debate, as they have done time and time again this week.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): Member for Monash, on a point of order?

Mr Broadbent: I refer to page 43 of the standing orders and standing order 75 'Irrelevance or tedious repetition'.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm not upholding your point of order, I'm sorry. I give the call to the member for Whitlam.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: The honourable member complains that we repeat the accusation against them, but time and time again they close down debate. They don't want to hear any opposing voices. They think that this parliament is their toy and their plaything. Well, it's not.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Mackellar, do you have a point of order?

Mr Falinski: I do, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It better be a good one, because you're skating on thin ice already.

Mr Falinski: Let me think. No, it is good. This is actually under the standing orders. Will the member take an intervention and explain why the Australian Taxation Office says that the problem is less than $2 billion, but he keeps quoting it's $13 billion?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Manager of Opposition Business, on a point of order?

Mr Burke: I understand the member is using standing order 66A. In which case he should in the first instance see whether or not an intervention is permitted. He may well get the chance, but, having tried this, I know that sometimes you don't. He should first seek to make an intervention and then there will be an opportunity to find out whether he gets to make it, rather than throwing it all in at the front.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar can sit, unless he's raising another point of order.

Mr Falinski: I would like to thank the Manager of Opposition Business.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you seeking to make an intervention?

Mr Falinski: Yes. Under standing order 66A I ask if the speaker will accept an intervention.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Do you accept the intervention?

Mr STEPHEN JONES: I'm happy to take the intervention.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Terrific. The intervention is accepted. What is the intervention?

Mr Falinski: I'd like the member for Whitlam to explain why he keeps using the figure of $13 billion when the Australian Taxation Office has indicated that the problem is less than $2 billion.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Wouldn't it be good if this intervention were in the debate on this bill that should be before the House at the moment. The member obviously has a deep interest in this bill. He raises a valid point that the tax office estimated back in 2016-17 that the unpaid tax by multinational companies in this country was somewhere in excess of $2 billion a year. However, there are many other learned contributors to this debate who estimate that this is a very conservative estimation and it is likely to be much closer to $13 billion, because company after company—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Excuse me just a moment. Member for Mackellar?

Mr Falinski: Under standing order 66A, would the speaker accept another intervention?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Actually I should have ruled you out of order last time. The Clerk has brought to my attention that you can't take an intervention at this time. It's not an order of the day. I think that's the right language. I shouldn't have accepted it the first time, so I'm sure as hell not accepting it a second time. I give the call to the member for Whitlam.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: I think the member for Mackellar's intervention bespeaks his keenness to speak on the side of the debate for why the bill should be brought forward and debated in accordance with the Notice Paper. He has obviously got a lot of interest and knowledge on the bill and on the subject matter of multinational tax avoidance. I would welcome an intervention from the member for Mackellar at the appropriate point in time if this bill were brought on for debate, but, unfortunately, in a short moment I'm quite confident that the member for Mackellar, alongside each and every one of the members opposite, is going to vote to ensure that we don't get the opportunity to do that, to ensure that we don't get the opportunity not only to make a speech in the second reading debate but to examine the bill in detail. He has obviously got a lot of questions and a lot of issues that he wants to ventilate on this bill.

It probably would interest the member for Mackellar to know that company after company has been exposed paying zero tax on their Australian operations, including some impoverished entities and some really struggling multinational corporations, such as Goldman Sachs, Shell and IBM.

In fact, under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison-Truss-Joyce—weren't they golden eras!—and now McCormack government, as many as one-third of all large companies paid no income tax at all. In fact, data issued by the Australian tax office in December of last year showed that, out of 2,214 large companies, as many as 710 of them paid no tax whatsoever in the year 2017-18. The member for McKellar asks out of order why we say the number is much closer to $13 billion than the tax office's estimate of $2 billion. It's because of that very number. It's because of that very number—and we're not talking about corner shops here: 710 companies pay no tax whatsoever. That includes 102 firms reporting more than $1 billion in total income. I want you to contrast that to the average single Australian worker, who pays 25 per cent of their income in taxes. Large companies earning over a billion dollars average tax payments of only two per cent of their income. I can't think of a more important thing for us to be debating right now, but these members opposite want to debate anything else. They want to play silly parlour games when speaking to the motion.

A government member interjecting

Mr STEPHEN JONES: The member asked me to speak to the motion. We are arguing that these are the matters that should be debated. We should not be postponing this bill, because it is of vital importance to every member in this place—$13 billion worth of unpaid taxes, over 700 companies paying no tax whatsoever, 102 firms who earn more than a billion dollars in total income and yet pay no tax. Somehow those opposite think that's okay. We on this side of the House don't think it's okay; we think it's a matter of national urgency. Like the minister who introduced this bill into the House, we think we should be debating it today.