Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (13:39): I actually think my colleagues the member for Fraser and the member for Throsby are being too hard, because they need to appreciate that those opposite do have consistency. When it comes to issues of revenue and whether or not the taxation base of this country is being eroded, you have to know that they will not do anything about it. It has been there for decades. They had their little game where they were trying to track down the BLF. Malcolm Fraser and then Treasurer John Howard were in there, boots and all, after the BLF. That uncovered all these bottom-of-the-harbour taxation schemes.
Mr Simpkins: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not think we are here to talk about the Labor Party’s preselectors; I think we are here to talk about the bill.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order! The member will resume his seat. The member for Chifley.
Mr HUSIC: Nice try, sunshine.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: And the member for Chifley will make his remarks through the chair and refer to members by their correct titles.
Mr HUSIC: Absolutely; I withdraw that. When they had a threat to the taxation base of this country, they did nothing in relation to bottom-of-the-harbour schemes. We had the types of arguments you have got here today that try and scoff at whether or not it is a legitimate thing. We had the member for Dunkley say the same thing. In the member for Dunkley’s eyes, if this measure does not raise a dollar it is not worth doing. But even though there are some on that side who do not recognise that protecting the taxation revenue of this country is an important priority, there are some conservatives who do. For example, on 21 May last year, one particularly prominent person from their side said that this is a big issue. He said:
This is a big issue relating to the erosion of the Australian tax base. Over time, the erosion of the tax base will become material. You’ve got X billion dollars of revenue being earned—
In this case he singled out Google—
paying very little tax in Australia.
Who said that? That was the shadow communications spokesperson, on the front page of the Australian Financial Review, under the headline ‘Raise taxes on tech giants: Turnbull’. He goes on to say how this is a big threat to taxation revenue. He is not the only conservative to think this.
Over in the UK David Cameron sees this as a significant issue, regardless of the member for Dunkley or the shadow Treasurer thinking that this is not an issue. Prime Minister Cameron says that this requires the immediate attention of the G8. Why? Because, as he acknowledges, left on the shoulders of just one country, companies that move across borders will flout taxation laws, will erode revenue and will ensure that they find ways around it. So Prime Minister Cameron is saying that the G8 has to work on this. Here we are saying we need to work on it.
What do we have here in Australia? We have conservative politicians who—with respect to consistency when it comes to taxation revenue and protecting our revenue base—turn a blind eye to these things, to the rorts and the threats to taxation revenue, at a time when they have to plug a $70 billion hole in their estimates. But we have got others saying that this is serious enough to work on at the G8 level. The OECD is dedicating massive amounts of attention to this very issue. Frankly, as technology has changed, as we have globalised, as companies move across borders, this is a significant issue. Our taxation system taxes profits. When a company is operating across borders and sets up transfer pricing in a way that takes into account the fact that profits are taxed, it will be able, through its transfer pricing arrangements, not only to jack up prices locally for consumers but to do it in a way that lessens the ability of taxpayers to get their fair share. That is why it is an important issue.
The reason you have to listen to the contribution of some of those opposite during this debate is that this matter will be significant. In years to come, when they catch up with the rest of the world that realises that this is an issue, they will be back-peddling at a million miles an hour. You will not get a speed camera that can pick up how quickly they will back away from their words. This is a massive issue for governments worldwide. To be leaving it in their hands, saying, ‘We need to have a committee process that fully looks at this,’ when the rest of the world is already furiously looking at it is a joke.
How long did those opposite give for the Workplace Relations Act changes that ushered in Work Choices? When they ripped out conditions for Australian workers across the country, they did nothing—they gave no time whatsoever. Now they have become a big defender of parliamentary process, when, at the same time, we have these massive threats to our revenue. Their position on this is a joke and they need to recognise they have to speed up and get with the program.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Chifley will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.