7 September 2016
Transcript - #2016051, 2016

Interview with Warren Moore, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce week of action, Draft superannuation legislation to be released, Women in politics.

WARREN MOORE:

Joining us is the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer. Thanks for your time Minister.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Great to be with you Warren.

MOORE:

Just to what extent – I mentioned some figures there. This is huge isn’t it, the level of money involved and the number of people.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Look it is very significant. We know that there was a big leak which has now come to be known as the Panama Papers earlier in the year and that has been very, very carefully assessed by our various agencies here in Australia including the Australian Taxation Office and there has been a lot of intelligence sharing with a number of overseas jurisdictions and that has been led by Australia’s Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan who has collaborated with more than 30 other countries through the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence. The reason they’ve done that is to make sure that we can appropriately identify Australian individuals who may be involved in tax evasion arrangements whether they be individuals or whether they be promoters. We know from this information that some of the arrangements that have been put in place are very complicated. They involved offshore entities, fake shareholders, and other methods that have been used to disguise the ultimate owners of accounts and funds. So this week of action is the first week of a number of weeks that will be happening around the world where various agencies, and Australia has been the starting point here, have made sure that we have executed warrants on individuals. There have been 15 unannounced access visits across Victoria and Queensland which has involved around about 100 Australian Taxation Office officers.

MOORE:

So we’re not just talking about tax evasion though, we’re also talking about money being siphoned from proceeds of crime potentially and those sorts of things?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Yes. We’re talking about very serious criminal activity which is one of the reasons that the Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce was set up by the Government, announced by me and the Minister for Justice just on 12 months ago to look at these specific sorts of activities

to make sure that we can track down tax criminals and ensure that our tax base is protected because if we don’t protect it we are basically putting the burden on to good hard working Australians to pay even more tax.

MOORE:

So we are talking about just to go back in time a bit about this particular organisation – the Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce or the organisations it takes in, you have got the federal police, the tax office, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Attorney General?

MINISTER O'DWYER:

Yes, that is correct. We have got AUSTRAC as well that is involved in that. We have got the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions as well. Since its inception just over a year ago the Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce has already had a number of significant wins. They have conducted more than 300 audits and reviews and they have raised liabilities in excess of $130 million. Four people as a result of their investigations have received custodial sentences following prosecution action and they currently have on foot at the moment 19 joint operations.

MOORE:

Yes, it is a lot isn’t it?

MINISTER O'DWYER:

It is very significant but it is critically important, as I said before, that those people who are hiding assets and not disclosing their income and who are actually hiding their income offshore as well the Australian government will not tolerate it and those people who seek to evade their tax obligations they need to understand that there is no place to hide. It is not just simply through leaks like the Panama papers but it is also through the audit activity that is conducted by agencies like the Australian Taxation office.

MOORE:

So obviously if there is a large amount of money mysteriously being transferred to a particular country that is something that you will look at?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Absolutely, and they work in collaboration together. So AUSTRAC works in connection with the Australian Federal Police, they also work in connection with the Australian Taxation Office, to actually look at the relationships that are occurring and transactions that are taking place. As was announced today, the agencies the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission itself has used its coercive powers to gather intelligence, it has actually asked for information as well with AUSTRAC from the banks and that has directly assisted in the investigations to date.

MOORE:

Right, ok. I just wanted to get you on – and that is good news – but I just wanted to get you on a couple of other issues while you are there because this is sort of around your portfolio. We have had Scott Morrison the Treasurer today say the draft legislation on superannuation will be available tomorrow. He has already told us that the probably controversial one, well the most controversial parts of it the $500,000 cap on concessional contributions won’t be part of at least the draft initially. Are you confident the Coalition can get on deck and have the ducks in a row to support this?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Certainly we took a very comprehensive package around superannuation reform to the election. What the Treasurer has announced is the release of the first tranche of the exposure draft legislation. We think it is important that people have an opportunity to scrutinise the legislation and we are doing that in particular portions. We believe that it is critical that people understand the legislation around enshrining the objective of superannuation which is what we are going to be doing for the very first time in legislation so that everybody is aligned on knowing that superannuation is there to provide income in retirement that substitutes or supplements the Age Pension. That is very much what has guided the government’s reforms. There are a number of flexibility measures that have been put into the legislation and that is being release for draft consultation tomorrow which will provide more choice for Australians in being able to contribute concessionally to their superannuation because it removes restrictions that currently prevent some people who would otherwise like to contribute to their superannuation from doing that.

MOORE:

So when you say concessional it sounds like obviously the government has had to bend a bit on this. Is it still going to be meaningful reform?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

It is very meaningful reform, this isn’t - none of these pieces in this draft legislation has been changed from the policy that was announced. These are measures that are currently being opposed by the Labor party which will actually give access to older Australians to contribute longer to their superannuation through concessional tax arrangements. It gives them an extra ten years to make contributions which mean that we are looking at helping more than 40,000 older Australians being able to benefit from that. In allowing those people who are self-employed or partially self-employed or people who might be working for small businesses that don’t offer salary sacrificing arrangements the ability to also contribute concessionally to their superannuation, we are helping more than 800,000 people. These are all very good things that will allow people to save for their retirement.

MOORE:

Ok, now to state the obvious you are a female member of the Coalition’s Ministerial line up.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Yes, that’s true.

MOORE:

The reason I highlight the very obvious I found it interesting the federal executive of the Liberal party has announced this ten year plan about getting more women into Parliament. What do you make of that?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

I think it is very good, I think it is important that our Parliament reflects the diversity of people that make up our nation. Obviously 50 per cent or it is slightly more of our nation is made up of women and there are lots of very talented women who contribute to the work of the Liberal Party and there are lots of very talented women who would actually like to be able to represent their communities in the nation’s Parliament, and I for one would like to see more of them in the Parliament.

MOORE:

What do you see as those obstacles that mean we don’t have a 50-50 split?

MINISTER O'DWYER:

I think sometimes the process can be very daunting for women particularly those women who might have children because of the time it often takes for people to get to know you and to attend functions in order to be in a viable position to actually stand for preselection. I think that is one of those sorts of barriers that is probably a little bit hidden and probably a little unseen. I also think that there can be other barriers in place and they can be simply barriers that mean that women sometimes feel that they need to be tapped on the shoulder for these sorts of positions.

MOORE:

As opposed to putting your hand up?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

But politics doesn’t always work quite that way.

MOORE:

No, it doesn’t. Well life doesn’t necessarily work like that. I do have to leave it there but thanks very much for your time.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Great pleasure, Warren.