27 March 2017
Transcript - #2017051, 2017

Doorstop interview, Canberra

SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government’s crackdown on multinational tax avoidance; Turnbull Government’s Enterprise Tax Plan to drive economic growth; Queensland sugar; GST distribution

Today, the Diverted Profits tax, the next iteration of the Government's measures to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax in this country and they can't just shift their income and profits offshore, and they pay tax on it here. That will be being considered in the Senate today. It is an important piece of legislation which makes sure that multinationals pay their fair share of tax. As I said in the House of Representatives last week, some $2 billion has already been clawed back this year as a result of the very strong position – the world leading position – that the Turnbull Government has been taking on multinational tax avoidance.

Of course that couples with the other issue of company tax being considered this week in the Parliament, this is a bill, the Enterprise Tax Plan, that ensures that Australia's tax system for companies, for businesses that employ millions of Australians and that underpins the wages of millions of Australians, can remain competitive. These are important changes. This is a Government that's getting on with the job of ensuring that our economy can grow and that we have a competitive tax system that ensures that Australian companies – companies employing people – can get the tax monkey off their back. But when it comes to multinationals, they've got to pay their fair share, and those bills must be passed.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, what's your response to Senator Xenophon and Hanson both saying their groupings won't vote for the tax changes until the Government acts on unrelated issues of importance to them?

TREASURER:

I think, on the issue that has been raised – in terms of Queensland sugar – they're probably a bit behind the pace on what's happened on those issues. The Government is has already been intervening and acting, largely behind the scenes – not show-boating about this, but making sure the job gets done – and Queensland sugar and Wilmar were able to come to an agreement after many years of being unable to do that. That was the direct result of the pressure provided by the Prime Minister, myself, the Deputy Prime Minister and, of course, George Christensen working together with Tim Nicholls up in Queensland to get that result. That's in the process of now being documented and inked. There's a draft agreement that's supposed to be on the desk today from Wilmar, and that agreement means that there would be 12 years of certainty around this. Before we got involved it was six. So, this is a pretty good outcome. That is getting dealt with. But the other thing, frankly, that we're very focused on today in North Queensland is the coming cyclone and how people are preparing for that and, for their safety. We're getting on with the job when it comes to that agreement on sugar. We've had the opportunity and will continue to have the opportunity today to bring them up to speed on that. On the issue of a code of conduct – there was already Queensland legislation which provides pre-contract arbitration on those issues, but the Government has also been working in tandem, in parallel, on that same question now for some weeks. A lot's being done there. We'll have the opportunity to bring them up to speed on that. I think all members of the public expect parliamentarians not to go on strike, and it would be a very odd situation if they actually voted against making multinationals pay their fair share of tax today and then voted against small businesses actually getting a tax cut.

QUESTION:

Ben Wyatt has backed Liberal Senator Dean Smith's idea for a PC Inquiry into the GST distribution – do you have any sympathy for that sort of action?

TREASURER:

We're open to all of those suggestions. As you know, we've been very much on the front foot in providing what has already been around $1 billion of additional support to Western Australia in the form of infrastructure projects. I spoke with Ben Wyatt on Friday prior to the meeting of state treasurers, and we talked about a process that we could get involved in now over the next little while to see how we can continue on the arrangements we had with the previous government when it came to trying to provide some mitigation for these outcomes. Remember, the Commonwealth Grants Commission decides where the GST goes. Every cent of GST is paid to all of the states. The Commonwealth Grants Commission determines the allocation. It was only a year or two ago when Western Australia had gotten into that even worse situation of a relativity of less than 30, and all the other states and territories – including the Labor states in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia – rejected, absolutely, the idea that Western Australia should get a better deal. Now, that was reinforced on Friday. Labor states continue to reject a better deal for Western Australia. They did it to the Barnett Government, and their view hasn't changed for the new Labor Government in Western Australia.

QUESTION:

Treasurer, just on that company tax cut, you mentioned why won't Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon give relief to small businesses? That's what you're going to do this week – then split that Bill so small businesses get that relief, and then bigger businesses that can come down the track?

TREASURER:

We want the Enterprise Tax Plan passed in full. That's what's going to actually ensure longer-term investment in the Australian economy to support the growth that we need for incomes, for wages, wage increases and jobs. That's what we want to see supported this week. That's what the Labor Party used to say they supported. I don't think Chris Bowen's view has changed about the virtue or value of lower company taxes at all. That's what makes Labor's position more pathetic. I mean, this bloke won't stand up to his own shadow when it comes to company tax, or any of the things he apparently used to believe in.

QUESTION:

It can't happen without Xenophon and Hanson...

TREASURER:

That's the maths of the Upper House and the Senate, and that will be played out this week.

QUESTION:

But you wouldn't delay small businesses getting a tax cut? The Government wouldn't stand in the way of that, would it?

TREASURER:

I want to see it all passed and remember, you make a good point, the Bill, particularly for small business, will see the biggest relief for small business on company taxes in many a year. I mean, remember, it was the Henry Review that said the threshold should be raised to $5 million. We've raised it to $10 million. We've doubled what Ken Henry said. And the Labor Party refuses to come at $5 million, let alone $10 million. I mean, what a bunch of pathetic hypocrites.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

I'm not going to get into hypotheticals today.

QUESTION:

What's the cost of keeping the company tax cuts in full to the Budget over the forward estimates?

TREASURER:

That was in the Budget. You were very well aware of it.