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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8180

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (18:40): It is a bit like groundhog day in here, and Senator Cormann is Punxsutawney Phil. I have been here before with you, Senator Cormann—when we moved to extend unfair contract term provisions to small business, you stood up and said the same thing in the Senate. You threatened us and said, if our amendment got through, the whole bill would collapse and, therefore, we would have it on our consciences that we had turned down a perfectly good bill for small business. In the end, we went through with it, we got our amendment up, it went back to the House, they accepted the amendment and we have much better legislation. Our job as senators here in the Senate is to improve legislation and to debate these issues. To stand up, threaten us and say we are on the side of multinational corporations is, quite frankly, immature. We have had a good level of debate tonight. We have all been very reasonable and very measured in what we have said.

I want to make a point that is really obvious to me. The whole reason this thing has come into the public domain—the whole reason, as I said in my speech to the second reading debate, that this bill has even come to us and we are here tonight debating it—is that there has been sunlight shone on this subject, especially recently by journalists. The consequent public concern is a matter of significant interest. The ATO have been sitting on these special-purpose accounts, and what have we seen from them in the past around multinational tax avoidance? The efforts that they have taken recently started around the Senate inquiry, this developing public interest and the fact that the media is out there doing the investigative journalism and exposing these kinds of things.

To say that a requirement for general purpose accounting is going to be counterproductive and that we are on the side of multinational tax avoiders is actually a pretty stupid thing to say, with all due respect. We are trying to improve the legislation. We have a good idea. Let's not be combative and divisive in the politics around this. If you do not want to accept the amendment tonight and it is passed, take it away and have a good look at it. You will see that it makes common sense and that it is not a red-tape issue. This is about having information—with information, we can make good decisions. As the Productivity Commission always says, transparency should be in our genes.

The Greens will be supporting Senator Xenophon's amendment, but that will not stop us moving our amendment as well, because we believe this kind of accounting should apply to entities at a much lower threshold than $1 billion.