Dissenting Report by Labor Senators and the Australian Greens
Labor and Greens Senators stand proudly by their record of increasing
the level of tax transparency and scrutiny that large Australian private
companies are subjected to.
Introducing this bill will erode public confidence not just in the
transparency of our tax system, which has been the subject of unprecedented
scrutiny over the past 12 months, but it should also have the effect of
undermining any public confidence in the integrity of this government.
The ATO gave evidence during this inquiry that one in five private
companies earning over $100 million do not pay any tax. This
government should be making scrutiny of large Australian private companies a
The arguments being wielded clumsily in defence of this bill are absurd,
illogical, and often lacking any evidence.
This bill has few supporters, and the government is evidently doing the
bidding of a tiny number of very wealthy individuals. There were just a handful
of submissions to this inquiry, and other than tax consultants and tax lawyers
servicing large private companies, the only corporation to make a contribution
was Teys Australia, a privately owned meat processing joint venture with the
American company Cargill, based in Brisbane.
As noted in the Chairs draft, under the existing provisions of section
3C(3) of the Tax Administration Act, from December this year the ATO will be
required to publish the following basic information about large privately owned
Australian corporations with revenue in excess of $100 million:
- Australian Business Number
- Total income
- Taxable income or net income
(if any), and
- Income tax payable.
Much of this information is already a matter of public record, and its
availability will not be affected by the introduction of this bill.
The public can easily find a corporations ABN by searching the
Australian Business Register. Teys also published theirs (38 009 872 600) in a
All Australian corporations must provide copies of their financial
reports to ASIC (though there are some exceptions for small proprietary
companies). The public can access a wide range of often detailed personal and
financial information, including copies of documents lodged with ASIC.
Financial reports can be purchased by the public, their competitors, nosey
senators, or any other interested party (although we wish anyone trying to
navigate the ASIC register the best of luck).
A copy of Teys 2014 financial report (7E7239508)
is included as an appendix to this dissenting report. As anyone reading the
summary on page 5 can quickly identify, Teys total income in 2014 was
$52,161,000, its net income was a loss of $7,925,000, and its income tax
payable was $14,881,000.
Labor and Greens Senators reject the ridiculous arguments the government
is mustering to conceal this information.
Firstly, an individual’s right to privacy of their income and tax
information remains preserved under current legislation. Private corporations
with revenues in excess of $100 million and a single shareholder are not
subject to current disclosure requirements. Corporations do not enjoy the
rights and privileges of natural people.
It is important to note with respect to any allegations that privacy
would be violated that the name and address of any current or past company
directors are already available from ASIC. For example, according to the
current company extract, the following information is available for the four
Name: ROBIN WINSTON TEYS
Address: 45 George Street,
BEENLEIGH QLD 4207
Born: 06/07/1944, BRISBANE, QLD
Appointment date: 25/01/1995
Name: GARY CHARLES TEYS 018325757
Address: 20 Eastbank Terrace,
HELENSVALE QLD 4212
Born: 05/12/1941, BRISBANE, QLD
Appointment date: 04/12/1986
Name: CLIFFORD GEOFFREY TEYS
Address: 16 Garvary Street,
HOLLAND PARK QLD 4121
Born: 16/07/1955, BRISBANE, QLD
Appointment date: 25/01/1995
Name: ALLAN WALTER TEYS 7E1319642
Address: Unit 8E, 39 Castlebar
Street, KANGAROO POINT QLD 4169
Born: 05/04/1935, BRISBANE, QLD
Appointment date: 16/04/1975
The press have rightly mocked the government’s claims that making
information about total income, taxable income, and taxes paid more readily
accessible will somehow lead to an increased personal security risk for wealthy
people. No evidence has been presented by any government Minister or agency,
including the Australian Federal Police, of any increased risk to person or
property. The claim is preposterous and remains utterly unfounded.
Changing existing legislation will not prevent access to personal and
financial information, but it will simply make it more difficult to access,
identify, and scrutinise.
Of the many criticisms Labor and Greens Senators have with the strawman
logic being used to justify the introduction of this bill, none are in poorer
taste than invoking section 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, the ICCPR.
Drafted at the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, section 17 of
the ICCPR was drafted to prevent governments arbitrarily or unlawfully invading
the privacy of people’s homes and bedrooms:
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his
privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour
Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such
interference or attacks.
In 1994, Nicholas Toonen challenged the Tasmanian government under section 17 at the United Nations Human Rights Committee in
Geneva, overturning state laws criminalising consensual
sexual activities between same-sex couples. Section 17 was used as a
defence in Griffiths v Rose, when an employer revealed that an employee was
watching pornography at home after working hours on a company laptop.
It has also been used as a defence in immigration cases where a deportation
would result in the separation of parents from children, including Winata,
In evaluating the limits of the application
section 17, the Australian Human Rights Commission observes that “the
protection of privacy is necessarily relative. Balancing the rights to privacy
and/or protection of reputation with the rights to freedom of information and
expression presents challenges.”
In case it needed any further emphasis, the Chairs draft (1.13-1.16)
clarifies that both the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills,
and the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights scrutinised the Bill and found
no evidence that any human rights would be violated.
Labor Senators object to the invocation of section 17 of the ICCPR in
the strongest possible terms. Invoking this instrument is an obnoxious attempt
to misguide the public, press, and the parliament. It has no connection to tax
privacy, and the claim deserves both derision and ridicule.
Labor and Greens Senators recommend that the bill not proceed.
Senator Sam Dastyari
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson
Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania
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