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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8173

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (18:13): I would like to speak to the two Greens amendments before the Senate tonight. The second amendment is schedule 1 before item 5; the third amendment is at the end of the bill in clause 2 and that is the better targeting tax transparency. The first one is around consolidated accounts.

I understand that Senator Xenophon has an amendment that is very similar to our amendment on consolidated accounts. It is clear from the second reading speeches that the philosophy and the policy intents are very similar, but the difference is that we would like to have a threshold of $500 million to bring this in. From my understanding, I do not think it is so difficult for the government to enact this legislation. If the amendment gets up, and I certainly hope that it does, it is a very reasonable way to increase exposure and disclosure, as I said before, by looking at the loopholes.

I would call the special purpose entities and the special purpose accounts that they use a loophole. They apply to ASIC. As we heard in quite a bit of evidence in the Senate committee, they do not have the highest levels of disclosure. In fact, they have very low levels of disclosure. We heard of a lot of examples where this has been used. It quite shocked those on the committee that some very big companies were not disclosing tax at all. I remember being there when Greg Medcraft and ASIC were asked directly about this at estimates as well on numerous occasions.

It is up to us here to propose that this loophole—I will call it a loophole—be closed. No doubt it was put in place originally to lower requirements for corporations. I am trying to think of some of the reasons that it might have been allowed. No doubt we—we being the collective parliament—were lobbied, or someone in government was lobbied about red tape, equality, comparisons with other tax jurisdictions, because these kind of things might put off investors in this country. I would be quite happy for the minister to explain, if he could, why these special purpose entities and special purpose accounts were set up in the first place.