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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8176


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (18:27): Minister, you keep talking about the tax commissioner having the powers they need—putting aside whether they have the resources. Isn't the issue not necessarily that they have the powers to chase corporations who might be minimising or avoiding their tax but detection in the first place? Isn't it about having the information available? Especially for an office that is under pressure and that has lost so many of its staff over the years, isn't the issue that this information is available to the public and for forensic accounting, and it would actually be reverse red tape—it would give all of us the information we need. There is a really good forensic accountant in Tasmania who does just about everyone's work for them on a volunteer basis, not to mention the ones within professional organisations. This would open it up so that we could all help deal with this problem.

The problem, as I highlighted in my speech on the second reading, and which was very obvious in the Senate inquiry, is that the tax office has been shredded by the minister's government—4,400 jobs have been cut from the tax office, and the minister is here tonight telling us that all the commission needs is powers. Fine if the commissioner gets those powers when they need them, but you have to detect the avoidance in the first place. You have to have the resources and the ability to detect things before you can prosecute a case or hold these corporations to account if they are avoiding tax. This is about having the information available so that detection can occur, and that is what this amendment is about. I would have thought it was a no-brainer.