Monthly Archives: March 2017

SPEECH – ADANI AND THE MINING INDUSTRY

28 March 2017

It is always a pleasure, might I say, to speak on an MPI on a subject put up by the Greens. It makes it very simple. Very little research is required, because the response you can give to their contribution is the same very time. This anti-development party, anti-employment party, is a party will go to extreme lengths to prevent the development of economies in regional and rural Australia in particular, where resources and, in this case, the Adani mine will be developed. Of course, the Greens were supported by the metro-based Labor senators from the state of Queensland. Every one of the colleagues on the other side have an office in Queen Street—nobody has an office in regional Queensland—and they want to do things that will impact on the economies of communities that are thousands of kilometres away from where they are, places they rarely visit.

Let us have a look at the impacts of the policies of the Labor Party and the Greens in their efforts to date. They have been particularly successful. We have lost 14,000 jobs in Central Queensland in the coal industry, not directly from coal employees but from businesses and others who are there whose whole welfare in life exists around the development of the coal industry. I look to places like Emerald. If only my Labor colleagues were present, though I have one of our Queensland Greens senators here. Emerald is a small community that is west of Rockhampton. If you are ever inclined, you should go up the Cap Highway until you get to Rockhampton and then turn left—there are no other deviations—and you will find yourself in the centre of the township of Emerald. It is a fine place. I used to own a property not far from there—a farm that we had.

I bet you London to a brick that you will never go to Emerald. But, if you do, I bet that you wear a false moustache, because you will not want the good people of Emerald to recognise you—with 600 vacant houses in the community and unemployment rates nearly double that which you enjoy out the window of your office and where you live. Communities like Emerald have gone into depression because of the efforts of the Greens and the Australian Labor Party to prevent the development of industries in regional Queensland.

It is a remarkable thing for a party like the Labor Party, who live on the back of union support, to be anti-union with respect to the development of these 14,000 jobs that are on the table in Central Queensland. It defies logic. Slowly but surely, and sadly for them, the coalition are becoming the party of the workers, particularly as you get into the resource industry. They are looking to us now. They are looking to us to nourish their lives. They still put money into your coffers and the coffers of the Australian Labor Party, but that is slowly changing. In my home state a couple of private unions have performed. People are voting with their feet; they are moving across. I think the nurses union is getting 80 or 90 new memberships a day in my home state.

I invite you—and I am happy to put it onto my tab; our offices can liaise—and I invite all the senators from the Labor Party and any senators from the Greens, particularly the Queensland senator, to join me. We will have a good couple of days. We will kick back and we will have the odd stubbie in Blackwater, Emerald and Alpha, and places. These economies are depressed and they will remain depressed until we stimulate them with the proper development of this Adani mine resource.

We have 400 kilometres of rail line to be built that they are suggesting that somehow the government is doing for this company without any form of return. The cost-benefit analysis has been done. The stimulus that it will give to Central Queensland and all the way through to the port at Bowen will be enormous. It will have a flow-on effect that will last for decades. Generations of people will have job opportunities up there as a result of this investment. For Senator Chisholm to cast aspersions on the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan, and somehow suggest that his support and the processes involved in trying to get this project up have happened in the shadows and that no-one is following the script is complete and absolute nonsense.

We know that units of the Greens party in Australia have taken these people to court. These Newcastle based environmental activist groups funded by corporate money from the United States have been taken to court. Every single facet of this project has been thoroughly and transparently examined not only in the court system but in the public. I can tell you the jury has come in—the jury of Mackay and the jury of Townsville, where unemployment is almost at 10 per cent when the national figure is 5.9 per cent. These are depressed economies that want this project to happen.

If you think about it, there is not a business or a service in Central Queensland, all the way from Townsville down to Gladstone, that does not have a real interest in this. This is a massive part of our home state. I remind you that no senators other than our party, the coalition government, have senators in these areas. We have Senator Macdonald in Townsville. We have Senator Canavan in Rockhampton. That was done deliberately so that we could spread our representatives across the state so that we could get on top of what our communities want in terms of development and progress for their economies.

It really is insulting to hear Senator Chisholm and our friends in the Greens come into this place and endeavour to influence decisions that will impact on the hundreds of thousands of people and families in this massive area of my home state without one thought for their welfare. Senator Roberts raised a good point. There are those in this place who are absolute bleeding hearts. They would like to see us develop tofu farms and injured animal hospitals all the way through Central Queensland rather than invest in something that will provide a job. They put a lot of time and effort into saving the blue-winged parrot and a possum that I cannot pronounce, yet there is not one regard for the hundreds of millions of people in India who are endeavouring to pull themselves out of poverty.

I know it does not affect Labor or the Greens. You can look out of your office and look out of your house down on your mown lawn, but you do not have any regard for these people because you do not understand these economies. Our government tried to give some tax relief. Mind you, those opposite lost sight of the fact that this is the money and the business. They own it and all we wanted to do was to take a bit less. They think it is some sort of tax break that we are gifting them out of the Australian purse. That is not what is happening. We just wanted to take a bit less. We know what they do with it.

I say to those opposite—and I have said this in here before and no-one has ever protested or corrected me—none of you have ever employed anybody. You have never put your hand in your own pocket and pulled out your own money to pay wages or to promote the development of any industry or any business anywhere in my home state—not one of you. When you put your hand in your pocket you have got someone else’s money. I tell you now that you are ignorant to what it takes to drive regional economies.

We have had a lot of depression in my home state. We have had a battle because the mob over here decided to knock out the live cattle trade. That absolutely devastated thousands of business enterprises in the middle of a drought, which no-one wants to support. No-one wants to support us to support those people in drought conditions. Here is a serious opportunity for us to develop an area where the impacts on our national interests will be very positive. It will put much into the purse of the nation, so that we can continue to invest in supporting business and regional and provincial communities so that they can employ people.

When they all get a job they can spend their spare time going out to find your wounded possums, strap their legs up, take them home, put them on the teat and try to save them, but until then you have to start to consider supporting this government as we support these industries and as we promote the development of this wonderful state of ours—in my case, the state of Queensland. The invitation stands for all of my Senate colleagues on the other side, including those in the Greens, who I doubt have ever been outside the CBD of Brisbane. Give my office a bell. I will make myself available to take you for a run and to introduce you to some of these people. I cannot guarantee your safety and I cannot guarantee that I will get you home, but the offer stands.

SPEECH – CORPORATION TAX

22 March 2017

I rise to make a contribution pursuant to standing order 75 on this issue, a reinforcement of the statement of the need for multinational companies to pay tax. I suspect that almost all of the senators in this place would support that principle, making allowance for some of the recent debate—unless you thought the tax was an unfair tax, Senator Williams, in which case you would be encouraged to avoid the law and not pay your income tax, because that is the way you protest to have an unfair tax rule changed.

Senator Williams: That’s the Greens’ way.

Senator O’SULLIVAN: That is obviously the policy of the Australian Greens. Before I start on the substantive issue, I want to address a small reference Senator Hanson made in her speech. I do not believe she intended to leave the impression that this coalition government would, by act or omission, do anything to protect multinational companies from meeting their tax liabilities in this country. That is the position I want to adopt on that statement, and Senator Hanson can qualify or reject that at another time if necessary.

At the heart of a liberal society is people operating within the bounds of the law. On matters of taxation, on matters of how we operate our business, on matters of how we make a contribution to how our society operates, our government is generally by law and regulations. And taxation is no different. The laws in this space are relatively clear. There can be some complex aspects. But generally speaking you operate your business, you have inputs and expenditures, you calculate all of that and if you are left with a sum of money, known loosely as a net profit, you will pay a sum of tax in those circumstances.

I do think that, in this space, there is a belief that those who might make a great effort to avoid or minimise their tax liabilities to the lowest possible level, where it will have an impact on the economy, are generally within the larger corporate community, including many multinational companies. I do not think anyone denies any corporation or any individual the right to conduct their business and manage their affairs in the best way possible, not just to minimise their tax liabilities but to minimise all of their liabilities. That is how you operate a business. If you take your eye of that, if you ignore that, you will not be in business for long.

But it is unfair to say that this coalition government has ignored this issue. People like me have consistently spoken out against things such as transfer pricing; I find that an abhorrent practice. And I agree with Senator Hanson that it has quite a degree of prevalence. Particularly in and around agriculture, transfer pricing is occurring. It worries me that multinational corporations that are operating in our space—whether they own land or not—would exploit the chance to drive on our multibillion-dollar road networks to move soft commodities and freight and use our port networks and take advantage of the massive investment this nation has made and continues to make in matters of biosecurity. We have a very stable rule of law. We have civil jurisdictional relief. We are one of the most stable countries in the world in which to do business. We have a very low sovereign risk, and that is what appeals to many of the corporations and companies that come here.

The message is very clear. This government has already demonstrated its mettle in the space. It will not tolerate people who unlawfully avoid their tax liabilities. We introduced the multinational anti-avoidance legislation. You might remember that former Treasurer Hockey led a very advanced debate in relation to these areas when we hosted the main visitors from the Western world here in 2015. And there has been quite a bit pursued in this space since that time.

Senator Hanson made reference to the fact that this is impacting on our debt. Senator Hanson, I would have to say that that was one of the few things that I disagree with in your speech. What impacted on our debt was the absolute indolence and negligence of the Australian Labor Party when they were managing the economy of this country prior to a change of government. It was pink batts and school halls that impacted on the massive debt—hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars—that we have got. And, of course, we have an environment where the structural deficits continue.

But, notwithstanding that, this law that was introduced has the potential just in this financial year to claw back $2 billion in tax. Remember, this was resisted by the Australian Labor Party. That is the sort of money that they would have left on the table with multinationals had we not introduced the legislation. Currently, the Australian Taxation Office, I am instructed, are quite aggressively pursuing those potential law-breakers. There are something in the order of 100 very, very significant audits underway, 70 of which are of multinational corporations. The diverted profits tax will commence on 1 July this year, and that provides a powerful new tool to the Australian tax office to tackle these contrived arrangements and uncooperative taxpayers.

This challenge is not just here in our country; this is a challenge across all of the developed economies. This is a challenge faced by many of our trading partners. Indeed, it is an international problem, and the solution therefore requires international cooperation and thinking. Areas such as tax havens, which do not cooperate with the likes of our Australian tax office, make it very difficult for matters to be investigated and prosecuted. These are people, in some instances, particularly with transfer pricing, who have developed some very, very exotic methods in order that they might avoid taxation. As a result, our government will have to visit, I think, some fairly exotic solutions to these problems. I know that one colleague has suggested that we start to look at a royalty on soft commodity exports so as to avoid any impacts on transfer pricing.

My message to multinationals and companies that are being clever with respect to their tax management is to tell them that this is a government that supports statements such as those put up by Senator Hanson that there is a need for multinational companies to pay tax in this country. If you do not want to do that, you should go and trade somewhere else. There are those of us in government, in the coalition—most of us, I would say—who are constantly thinking about the methodologies, constantly thinking about adjustments in legislation and practices, that can achieve this goal.

I sent the message to Wilmar on a couple of occasions. It was a case provided by Senator Hanson. Wilmar ignored a number of us, thinking that we would not achieve outcomes. I think that, if Wilmar had had their time over again in these last two years, they would have behaved differently. They would have listened more intently to what we had to say, and I think we would have got a higher level of cooperation. So I say to the multinational corporate world: you just watch the Wilmar case. It is not over yet. It will send a clear signal to you of the commitment of this government to see that everybody supports the laws, particularly in the case of taxation.