Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Page: 8247

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland) (12:02): This is the same issue that I raised earlier with—

Senator Cash: With a different minister.

Senator LUDWIG: a different frontbencher, from whom I am still waiting to get a reply. So I take issue with your criticism that this is a filibuster. The filibuster is from your side, Senator Cash. I do not know how many frontbenchers who have had carriage of this piece of legislation.

Senator Cash: Duty ministers.

Senator LUDWIG: I would like one who knew something about it, and then who could pass the information back as requested. Then we could get on to the substantive amendments. The issue raised by Senator Xenophon I raised as well. The answer given by Senator Fifield said that the reason that they can reduce from 1,000 to 200—in other words, only publicly listed companies—was effectively what Senator Xenophon had said, absent the kidnapping. He did not throw the kidnapping one in; I would not have taken much stock of that issue. The answer given was that the exposure of their financial records in the public domain could allow competitors to gain an advantage by being able to trawl through their profit and loss statements, or whatever might be available. Senator Xenophon, much better than I, encapsulated the argument that most of this information—if not more if it, as it would be available through payment of $38 on the ASIC register—could be obtained in any event. An astute company wanting to assess and look at another company would also, similarly, be able to examine ASIC—as I am sure they would—to establish the financial position of that particular company.

This is the first time I have heard this. I am minded to the position where, just as in the share market world of public listed companies, if there is an issue such as an offer or a takeover in the wind, they generally report and suspend trading. It is the same concept—I think Senator Xenophon is looking for a compromise—where, logically, if there were a concern by a particular company that they were ripe for a buyout, a sell-out, a takeover, or whatever it might be, or if they were going to be troubled in the market by a competitor, then they might be able to make a prima facie case for the removal of their name from the register during that period or for a period of time. It would be a logical thing to do. I did not follow the argument put forward by Senator Fifield at the time that it is simply a case of, 'You don't need the register with all of those people on it because of this issue.' The truth is that you can deal with the issue in a more substantive way and still have an appropriate threshold. You do not need an unbelievable threshold, which really only lists into a very small number of companies. What you want to achieve in any legislation that you are bringing forward is a wide and fair application of it so that you do fairly capture all of those companies that you are required to. I am still waiting for the response to that. I am sure I will obtain it now.

Before we get into the substantive amendments, the second issue I wish to raise to get a response for is: in the 2015-16 budget relating to multinational tax avoidance, I want some assurance about the package going forward as to the time line or how it will be rolled out. Other elements in the 2015-16 budget related to the developing of a public tax transparency code to complement country-by-country reporting, which is being developed by the Board of Taxation. What is the time line on that? Will that be a draft? Will it be publicly released? Is there a release date available for that? Also, the same goes for the implementation of treaty abuse rules developed by the OECD and which aim to address the exploitation of tax treaty rules by multinationals to avoid taxation. Will there be a draft? What consultation will be undertaken to give that effect, and is there a time line for that?

Thirdly, I refer to the antihybrid rules developed by the OECD to address the issues of multinationals claiming a tax deduction in one country but not paying tax in another because of different tax rules. Will those antihybrid rules be open for draft consultation? Although they are called rules, will they be regulations which are disallowable and come here, or will they effectively be guidelines or rules used by the tax department? If they are the latter, will they be promulgated or open or draft and able to have some input into them from the various institutes that have an interest in how they would operate, and what is the time line for the implementation of those rules?

Fourthly, in regard to exchanging information with other countries about harmful tax practice and preferential tax deals, the same applies there. Will they be either regulations or rules? Rules obviously would not come here. If they are regulations, will they be disallowable? Following on from that, is there a draft or a consultative process that will surround the development of those practices, and what is the time line that might be associated with that?

Fifthly and lastly, there is the issue of a GST on digital products and services imported by Australian consumers. This would help level the playing field between domestic and international suppliers and ensure that all suppliers pay a fair share of tax. The same goes for that particular one, and it comes from the 2015-16 budget relating to multinational tax avoidance. With a GST on digital products, how would you determine whether or not a GST should be applied to a particular product and, if so, on what basis? What is the broad definition that you are going to use in respect of digital products and services? If a like service is already GST-free, will there be a determination that that particular service would then be subject to a new GST? Will there be a consultative process surrounding the definition of digital products and services and what is the time line for the implementation of that?

It is a good measure which I support. What I would like to ensure is that, in bringing about the level playing field between domestic and international suppliers, all suppliers do pay their fair share of tax. But, ultimately, I would like to ensure that it is brought in in such a way that it does not disadvantage Australian consumers and it does not create red tape for businesses in Australia—and thereby create not a level playing field, in fact, because you have effectively brought in a compliance regime or red tape that surrounds the implementation.

The broader issue for individuals is that, in doing all of this, there is some view expressed or at least considered that you are then not implementing a raft of red tape for business that they would then have to comply with, particularly given that this government continually trumpets the view that it is a remover of red tape. I would not like to see business suffer significant red tape around the implementation of those measures. I suspect that that will be hard to achieve because much of the implementation will require some regulatory burden and some guidelines, rules and legislation. But, ultimately, in considering all of that, do it in such a way as to be mindful of the minimisation of red tape on business.

I do take issue with your accusation that it is a filibuster. You have got a couple of minutes. I really do want answers to these questions. This is the opportunity for senators to ask questions about the legislation, and that is exactly what I am doing.