JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
ABC BRISBANE DRIVE
MONDAY, 4 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Pandora Papers and tax havens; Multinational tax reform.
STEVE AUSTIN, HOST: Jim Chalmers is the Shadow Treasurer and Federal Labor Member for Rankin. Jim Chalmers afternoon to you.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Steve, what are we going to do with this awesome power that comes with going state-wide on a public holiday?
AUSTIN: All people really care about I think is the rugby league result from last night! Did you watch the game?
CHALMERS: I did. I watched every minute of it. It was a great grand final, nice and close. You feel a bit for Souths and their supporters including Anthony Albanese and a handful of my colleagues. But it was a great game and I think Penrith were really deserving and it was a good outcome. I think Queensland put on a good show for the rest of the country, including parts of New South Wales that are doing it tough.
AUSTIN: Given Anthony Albanese is a Rabbitohs supporter, how's he feeling today?
CHALMERS: I checked it with him Steve, but I haven't heard back which is not great! I'm sure he's doing okay. I think one of the things about following a team as intensely as Anthony does is you get used to the ups and downs. They were kicked out of the comp once so they’re used to the ups and downs. It was terrific that they were even able to make the grand final. There's a great guy that played for them last night, Adam Reynolds, who's a real champion. He’s coming to the Brisbane Broncos next year so we're looking forward to having him.
AUSTIN: Let's go to matters at hand. It'll be featured on ABC TV Four Corners tonight. It's once again a close look at the Pandora Papers, which were leaked or revealed some time ago but journalists around the world have been going through them and this has been resulting in a whole range of programmes including ABC TV's Four Corners tonight. First of all, what's Federal Labor's policy on tax havens generally? They're widely used in business, both here and around the world.
CHALMERS: We're developing policy in this area, Steve. We've had detailed policies on it at previous elections. We're going through what we've said before, and updating and seeing how we can be more effective. But our position in principle is that when the wealthiest people and the most powerful people in the world avoid their obligations, whether it's tax obligations or legal obligations, that makes it harder on the rest of the people. It means that ordinary working families in Australia have to pay more tax to cover up for the fact that some people can afford to avoid or evade tax entirely. So it's a big problem, we need to crack down on it. I think the leak of these papers, as you said in your introduction, 12 million documents, which outline the way that people have used often legal structures to hide a whole bunch of dodgy activity, we obviously need to crack down on that. The ATO has said that they're working through these documents with international partners. So we hope that something comes from that.
AUSTIN: The ATO has raised around $23 billion in tax liabilities against everything from multinational corporations to individuals since July 2016 to around August this year as I understand it. So that would seem indicate that the ATO or the Commonwealth is on to this reasonably well.
CHALMERS: First of all, good. That's what we want to see. We want the ATO to go after dodgy practices. That's a good thing. But we don't know how much they're missing. We don't know whether or not the laws can be updated, to make it easier for the ATO to chase some of this money. Because if you think about that $23 billion, we don't know what fraction of the problem that is. Every dollar that's avoided by the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world is made up for by ordinary working folks and we don't want to see that. So we need to make sure the ATO has the right powers and that the laws are up to date. I think a Labor Government would do what we could to ensure that.
AUSTIN: Australia is the vice chair of the steering group on the G20 OECD framework, which has been looking at stopping or clamping down on global tax avoidance. I think that started in 2015, which did actually result in Australia tightening our tax laws at that stage. Jim Chalmers, was that not enough?
CHALMERS: Obviously more can be done when we've have still got lots of people doing the wrong thing. If you look at these papers, not all Australian obviously, this is a big global problem, and one of the reasons why I welcome the G20 being involved and I welcome Australia being a prominent voice in that is because we do need global action as well as domestic action. The OECD has done some important work. The G20, I think can do more here. The Americans have taken a lead through President Biden and Secretary Yellen. These are all good things. We need to work out how Australia can play a constructive role in that but also how we can make sure our own domestic arrangements are up to scratch. So that to the extent that we can crack down on this dodgy behaviour we do.
AUSTIN: My guest, Jim Chalmers, Jim Chalmers is the Shadow Treasury spokesperson for Federal Labor, he's also the Federal Member for Rankin. This is ABC Radio Queensland in Brisbane, Steve Austin is my name. Jim Chalmers, the Four Corners programme tonight, I have not seen it, but the Pandora Papers have been out there for quite some time. What it does indicate that there's almost like there's this elite of world leaders often have fairly dubious political history, that are able to live and avoid tax despite running very impoverished countries. I'm wondering whether there's anything globally, that could be done more about that. The UN doesn't seem to think it's too much of an issue that I'm aware of.
CHALMERS: I think transparency is a big part of the story. That's why it's good that these papers are kind of forcing people to look at this problem. So transparency is a big part of the story. Coordinated international action is crucial, like we were just talking about. The G20, OECD, the big players in the world economy, we need them to lead. So those are all good developments, that all of those institutions are looking at it. But yes I think on the face of it, if you look at that list, including some current world leaders and senior officials from countries which aren't known for their people necessarily prospering as much as their leaders, it's a big problem. If you think about, as we recover from this pandemic both globally but also here in Australia, how we pay for the investments that we need to sure the economy and our society are stronger after COVID than it was before, then we can't have these leaky buckets where if you're among the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, then you can afford to set up these structures that mean that you avoid paying your fair share, or you avoid your legal obligations. Because all that means is that ordinary people, people listening to your programme this afternoon, throughout Queensland, they have to pay and make up for the tax that isn't paid by those people who are dodging their obligations. So we need to crack down on it. Transparency is great. International action is great. We need a federal government that believes in it as well and that's what we would be.
AUSTIN: There's a very large number of Australian corporations that last financial year didn't pay any tax through legitimate tax write-offs in Australia. I'm not suggesting it's illegitimate, but legitimate tax write offs. I'm sure you've seen the list. Would Federal Labor do anything about that?
CHALMERS: There's a couple of issues there. First of all, as you I think intimated, there are legitimate tax write-offs. We have arrangements that encourage people to make big investments, and they write off those investments over time. So sometimes those lists include companies that have made a big investment. So we need to be careful about that. But equally, there are some businesses that hardly ever pay tax. So what we've said is our focus is on the multinationals end of that. There are fairer ways to tax multinationals. We've had a policy on that the last couple of elections, we will have a policy on that at the next election too, because we want to make sure that multinationals pay their fair share of tax. Again, there's some good international developments here, that we need to hitch our wagon to in some ways to make sure that where companies make their profits, they aren't shifting around their obligations in tricky ways to make sure that they pay much less tax in another country then where they're making the profits.
AUSTIN: I'll leave it there, Jim Chalmers, thanks for your time.
CHALMERS: Thanks very much.