UnderCurrent is pleased to report that retailing mogul Gerry Harvey has found a new friend, perhaps from an unlikely source. The Harvey Norman chairman, who has previously been featured lovingly on the Liberal Party website and was once famously quoted, perhaps unfairly, having a whinge about the value of giving money to charities, has a new ally in Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Shorten and his Labor Party pals want to make the big foreign companies pay more in company tax. As it stands, these companies, many of them tech giants, use a variety of avoidance tricks to squirrel profits out without having comparable taxation applied to it — comparable to Harvey Norman, anyway.
Back on 29 January 2015, Harvey told Georgina Wilkins from Fairfax that it was time these companies were held to account:
“Without mentioning names, there’s a lot of lobbying going on, and they’re presenting their case as if they’ve got a legitimate gripe,” Harvey said, referring to the pressure applied by overseas organisations to protect their myriad tax schemes.
“They [multinationals] have lots of lobbyists in Canberra trying to present their case as to why they shouldn’t be penalised [over tax]. They’re arguing that they should be treated unequally. That’s a very hard argument.”
Well, Harvey spoke and Shorten listened. The Opposition Leader sent out a media release today declaring that — and it’s like Gerry wrote the subject line himself — “BIG MULTINATIONALS TO PAY FAIR SHARE UNDER LABOR” (Shorten’s bold, all caps and underlining).
In the release, Shorten outlines a package to “bring at least $1.9 billion back to Australia” over the course of four years, from companies bracketed together as “big multinationals”. The policy includes changes to deductions available to multinationals, empowering the ATO to track down and tackle avoidance, a crackdown on “hybrid structures to reduce tax” and improved transparency.
“It is not fair that Australians work hard and pay tax while big multinationals get to play by different rules. It is not fair that Australian businesses are paying more tax in Australia than big multinationals,” the media release says, and UnderCurrent agrees.
The media release also namechecks Harvey Norman:
“Last year, one of the largest companies in the world paid $80 million in Australian tax, on local revenue of just over $6 billion. The local retailer Harvey Norman paid more tax – $89 million – on a quarter of the revenue.”
When UnderCurrent replied to this media release asking for a source on this company, it was pointed to a newspaper article — the same on quoted above — that identifies beloved tech giant Apple as said company. The same Apple that is a major supplier partner of and foot traffic magnet for Harvey Norman.
UnderCurrent has nothing but respect for Harvey Norman for paying its fair share of tax, love of Apple for manufacturing lovely toys and admiration for the Opposition for at least trying to stop tax avoidance by these multinationals. It does wonder, however, about the dynamic now being forged by this unusual triumvirate.