Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the Common Reporting Standard) Bill 2015 - Second Reading

Monday, 08 February 2016

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) (16:21): I rise to sum up the debate on the Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the Common Reporting Standard) Bill 2015. I thank the members on this side of the House who have contributed to this debate. I say to the opposition: could you please put an end to the confusing speeches about combating multinational tax avoidance. The House has before it only one amendment, but people listening to this debate might think from the opposition's comments that the opposition has a great concern about multinationals paying tax. But members of this House will recall that on the last sitting night of 2015, here in this chamber, the government debated its Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015. They kept us here until the middle of the night. Yes, it was the House's view that we should gag the shadow Assistant Treasurer, the member for Fraser. It was a popular view in this House that we should gag the shadow Assistant Treasurer because he is quite verbose.

Back to the important substance of the matter: the Labor Party under Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, and Chris Bowen, the shadow Treasurer, voted against the government's measures—the Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015. The Labor Party voted against it. I want to say to the Australian public that the Australian Greens voted for the government's bill. You may think the Greens are from the hard left of politics, but they are more economically responsible than the Australian Labor Party. They voted with the government for our bill, our measures, to make sure that multinationals pay their fair share of tax. There is only one political party in this country that voted against the government's measures to introduce multinational tax arrangements and that was the Australian Labor Party.

Once again today you would think this was some sort of controversial matter. This matter is completely noncontroversial. This bill is about implementing an agreed position with the OECD—the common reporting standards. That is the agreed position with the OECD. The Labor Party have one pious amendment before us today—that is it. You would think from listening to them that they had put a series of complex amendments to this bill. The amendment before this House is:

… “while not declining to give the bill a second reading—

so they have learnt something from 2015; that is, they are not going to oppose this bill—

the House condemns the Abbott-Turnbull Government for making Australia a laggard, not a leader, in implementing strong measures to stop multinational profit shifting.”

So their only amendment is to attach to this bill a Greens style set of words to have a crack on the way through. No substantive amendments to this bill have been proposed to this House—none. There are no substantive amendments to this bill so every speech you have heard from the Labor Party has been about nothing. We are debating nothing yet again. The shadow Assistant Treasurer is here arguing for measures that he has not even had the gumption to put forward in technical amendments.

Dr Leigh: You might have a look at this.

Mr HAWKE: I would like to. I would like to hear your view on it, because this is all we have got before us. How do we make the law in this country? How are you making law in this country? Have you consulted with the sector, like the government has? We have consulted with multinationals and we have consulted with the banks to understand that the financial year in Australia operates from 30 June to 1 July, unlike most European countries, which operate on the calendar year. There are reasons why this is happening six months later than in other countries. You simply come into this House and put in a ridiculous, infant like, pious amendment to this bill to have a crack on the way through when the government is implementing the common reporting standard in agreement with the OECD—negotiated agreement with the OECD—to ensure that we have the right measures in place so we can commence this at the start of our tax year. Nobody in Australia would find that unusual or unacceptable and yet the Australian Labor Party are once again here in this chamber trying somehow to make out that the government is not doing the right thing on multinational tax.

I want to make this blatantly clear to the Australian public. We are doing the right thing by Australians. We are doing the right thing by our economy. We are doing the responsible thing by our economy. We are patiently and calmly implementing bills and measures to ensure that multinationals pay their fair share of tax in this country and we are doing it in cooperation with the G20 and in cooperation with the OECD, as part of the BEPS process that was established under Australia's leadership at the G20. It is the Labor Party at every turn that are opposing this. They voted against the measures that this government put forward. The Australian Greens supported it. The Australian Greens knew these were responsible measures and the Independents knew these were responsible measures. It is the Labor Party that felt they could have some sort of political game with multinational tax. It is something every single member of this House agrees on and it is something that jurisdictions around the world understand—all laws need to be tightened and cooperation between countries and jurisdictions is vital to ensure that base erosion and profit shifting is taxed appropriately and becomes an option of the past.

Let us look at the actual bill, not at the ridiculous, pious amendment we have in front of us from the shadow Assistant Treasurer. That is the only thing we have a copy of. Members of this House will note that this is the only thing we have before us. I want to say that this standard of course will tackle and deter offshore tax evasion. Financial institutions in Australia are going to be required to collect information on a foreign resident's accounts and report it to the ATO. The ATO will provide the information to the foreign resident's tax authority. In exchange the Australian Taxation Office will receive information on Australians with offshore accounts and use it to ensure they are complying with their domestic tax obligations. G20 leaders endorsed the standard under Australia's presidency. For the shadow Assistant Treasurer I want to say that again: G20 leaders endorsed the standard under Australia's presidency—under this government and its determination to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax.

We have all committed to begin to exchange information by 2017 or end of 2018, depending of course on how your country operates with its tax and financial years, which—for the shadow Assistant Treasurer—does differ from country to country and does have serious implications if you attempt to by some imaginary amendment simply adjust a schedule without serious negotiation with those people you are going to affect—not just large multinationals but also smaller banks. Have you thought about the cost that will be passed on of course to customers just by simply exercising some imaginary complaint about this issue? This is an agreed position with the OECD. It is a negotiated position that will ensure that we meet our obligations. Indeed, over 95 jurisdictions have committed to implementing it, including former tax secrecy jurisdictions, importantly: Luxembourg, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. We can see real progress being made on this front, something all members of this House ought to support and ought to welcome the government's initiatives on.

In summation I want to say again that if you are serious about multinational taxation and combating anti-avoidance then you ought to be supporting this government's initiatives. The Australian Greens have supported this government's initiatives in combating anti-avoidance measures. The Independents have supported combating anti-avoidance measures. The Australian Labor Party need to drop their pious attitude towards the government's approach and get on board and understand that we are methodically working with the OECD and all other jurisdictions to implement those laws and measures necessary to ensure that we deal with this problem that has faced modern economies. So I say to the opposition: stop the resistance, join with the government, support us on the Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the Common Reporting Standard) Bill 2015 and please stop with the pious amendments and all of the nonsense.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): I thank the honourable assistant minister. The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Fraser has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.