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Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Page: 8244

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (11:48): We have made it very clear, Senator Cash, that the Greens will be moving an amendment to bring back what was lost in the Senate a few weeks ago. I am sure you are aware of the debate that we have been having now for several hours. That is not about big multinational corporations, billion-dollar-plus corporations and new disclosure laws and powers to the ATO to help the commissioner with this issue. We support that issue, and we were very clear about that in our speeches in the second reading debate. We will be bringing forward an amendment to replace the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (Better Targeting the Income Tax Transparency Laws) Bill 2015. That was defeated in the Senate a few weeks ago. I will be moving an amendment to this bill. I am not officially moving it yet, Chair, but I will be. We have all been discussing it. That is the context of my questions.

One of the things that has come to light, for your information, Senator Cash, since that piece of legislation was passed in the Senate is that an investigative journalist has discovered that one of the key witnesses who provided evidence—evidence which senators have admitted in this chamber influenced their decision on how they voted—turned out to be a front group called the Family Office Institute Australia, which was set up with no members to present to the Senate committee to support a coalition bill that effectively shielded privately owned companies from increased transparency. We are trying to get that transparency back. We think that this is a significant matter of public interest. It has been promoted to all of us, as senators, by various groups and organisations over the years, like the Tax Justice Network, as a good way of starting to help combat the problem of tax avoidance.

That is the context of the question I asked. My question was fairly simple: have you met with the Family Office Institute Australia or any of its registered members? This is the group that astroturfed the Senate, in the sense that it ran a campaign to support government removing these transparency laws. Do you believe it is acceptable that a few special interests can come together like this and essentially con the Senate and the Senate committee that this is somehow supported by a large number of individuals or businesses that do not see this legislation as being in their interests?