Jul 24, 2015

Speech to ALP National Conference – Buffett Rule Amendment

Delegates —

I rise to speak in support of this amendment which will be seconded by the CPSU calling upon an incoming Labor Government to give consideration to the introduction of the Buffett Rule on tax, which I support.

This came about when US investor Warren Buffett came to realise that although he was a billionaire he paid less tax than the secretary who looked after his diary.

This proposal is the creation of a minimum tax rate levied on the total income of high-income earners. If adopted, wealthy Australians would continue to spend fortunes on accountants. But once they reached a certain rate – 35% is what was proposed in the United States – no further deductions could be claimed.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has done research that showed that just for the top 1% of income earners, this could produce $2.5 billion revenue each and every year.

$2.5 billion that could be spent on infrastructure, on schools, on hospitals. The Australian Tax Office figures for 2011-12 show precisely why I believe very firmly that such a policy is needed.

They found that 75 wealthy Australians earning more than $1 million a year paid no tax. Of those 75, they had a combined pre-tax income of $195 million.

But their accountants managed to reduce their collective taxable incomes to just $82. That’s $82 in total out of $195 million that was earned. That is simply unacceptable.

That means that the burden of tax paid by those working men and women who are PAYG tax earners, are the people who are doing the heavy lifting. We hear a lot from this government about lifters and leaners.

Well I say, that one way we could deal with the tax system is to make sure that those people who should be paying tax do pay their tax and that those companies who should be paying tax do pay their tax as well, not offshore it.

We’ve had policy put forward by the Shadow Treasurer on multinationals to make sure that they pay their fair share of taxation. The adoption of this today will ensure that a Labor Government will give proper consideration to this proposal.

I believe it has the overwhelming support of the Australian community.

This is an issue on which we can mobilise people – because they know that the nurses, the teachers, the miners, the construction workers -they shouldn’t be paying all the tax while the millionaires simply are able to minimise theirs.

Delegates, I congratulate the CPSU on the leadership that they have shown on this issue and I comment the amendment to the conference.