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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9895


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (18:30): Just to be clear about this amendment, it ensures that, if you are a big multinational company with a turnover of $1 billion, you have to publish detailed financial general purpose accounts. This amendment ensures that companies like News Limited, Glencore, and the big pharma companies like Pfizer and so on all have to publish detailed financial accounts.

Senator Dastyari: What about Google? Senator Xenophon's amendment does that.

The CHAIRMAN: Order!

Senator DI NATALE: This ensures that we get those companies with a turnover of over $1 billion to publish detailed financial accounts. I have to say it is hugely disappointing to hear that the Labor Party are going to vote against an amendment which ensures that there is transparency around the financial accounts of those huge multinational companies. We have an opportunity here to support an amendment to the government's legislation that ensures that those companies with a billion dollar turnover publish detailed financial accounts.

So just to explain: at the moment, you can apply to the tax office to publish what is called a special purpose account. In simple terms, you do not have to outline your financial affairs in any detail. This amendment ensures that those huge multinational companies now have to file detailed accounts. They have to justify why they are paying so little tax. I am flabbergasted that we are now hearing from the Labor Party that they will not support that amendment. We are not talking about mum and dad who have the local milk bar; we are talking about companies like News Limited. Who would have thought that we would have an amendment that says to News Limited—

Senator Dastyari: You're a fraud! You're watering it down!

The CHAIRMAN: Resume your seat, Senator Di Natale. Senator Dastyari, you will need to withdraw those remarks.

Senator Dastyari: I withdraw.

The CHAIRMAN: Again, I remind senators to be conscious of the words they use in this place.

Senator DI NATALE: Again, just as an example, we have News Limited, who, through the Senate inquiry, were outed as being major risk when it comes to the level of tax that they pay—or, indeed, do not pay. This amendment says that we are now going to ensure that you publish in detail your accounts so we can track your arrangements and make an assessment about what a fair level of tax should be, given the profits that you make. And we have the Labor Party saying to News Limited, 'No, we don't want to do that. We're going to let you off the hook.' I have to say it is remarkable that for the past three or four hours we have heard about how important tax transparency is to the Labor Party, and now they are going to vote against an amendment that enforces those companies—Pfizer, Glencore, News Limited—to disclose their accounts, and we are having a debate about whether the Labor Party should or should not support it! Now we hear that they are not going to.

What it says to me is that those words ring very hollow. All the huff, all the bluster and all of the rhetoric that we have heard for the past few hours have been exposed as nothing more than grandstanding, because we have an opportunity. We are in the parliament. Our words actually do not matter that much. What matters are our actions. And right now we have the opportunity with our vote, the most precious thing that we are given in this place, to support legislation that would force those companies with a billion dollar turnover to disclose their affairs, and we know what that means. We know that when you force companies—as we saw in the UK with the number of companies who were forced to disclose their affairs; it drastically changed their behaviour—they realise that, to have a social licence, it actually hurts their bottom line when they are paying an unfair level of tax. It removes their social licence. So now we have legislation that is going to do that to those multinationals based here in Australia, and the Labor Party are saying no.

It says to the Australian community that all the rhetoric we have heard for the last few hours is hollow and meaningless and this is all about grandstanding and not about outcomes. You have an opportunity to move from the sidelines into this debate and to support legislation that will ensure that those companies pay their fair share. I just urge the Labor Party, and, indeed, the crossbenchers, to support this amendment, because it will be a critical tool in the fight against multinational tax avoidance.