18 November 2015
Transcript - #2015071, 2015

In the role of: Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer [21 September 2015 - 18 July 2016]

Interview with Ross Stevenson and John Burns, Breakfast with Ross and John, 3AW

SUBJECTS: Foreign investment

ROSS STEVENSON:

Kelly O’Dwyer good morning to you.

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Good morning, how are you?

STEVENSON:

Good, caught by whom?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

By the Australian Taxation Office. You will know that the Government has strengthened our foreign investment framework. Under the previous Labor Government not one court enforcement activity took place. We were very unhappy that our laws were not being obeyed and we transferred powers to the Australian Taxation Office to be able to properly audit the property sales and to then take action when those breaches had occurred.

STEVENSON:

Do they get out on their own initiative or do they largely act on information received from the public?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

They actually do both, we have a hotline that people can telephone in to but they can also now conduct sophisticated data matching where they use the information that the Australian Taxation Office has, the Foreign Investment Review Board, Border and Immigration, AUSTRAC, they combine that together and they can now target in a very sophisticated way unusual actions that are taking place.

JOHN BURNS:

What is the – Kelly, what is the sanction for someone who does breach these laws? We were discussing it earlier; now he has been forced to sell the house, if that is the only punishment he might make a profit and not be punished at all, why not pass a law that forfeits that property to the Crown?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

What we are doing is under the previous law basically you are right, people would have been able to profit from being able to purchase property contrary to our laws and then when they are found out, sold it and potentially sold it at a profit. We have changed that, we have said that is not good enough, that is not providing a strong enough disincentive so we have laws in the Parliament at the moment that says we are going to take the greater of the profit, the windfall gain that you make, or 25 per cent of the value that you paid for the property on top of the other penalties that we would apply.

STEVENSON:

Which is a fine presumably?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Correct. Or in fact if that is not high enough, the purchase price. So whichever is the highest of those three we are going to take, as the Government, to provide a disincentive for people doing the wrong thing.

STEVENSON:

I know that the State Treasurer here is currently coiled in the foetal position on his kitchen floor does he have to give the stamp duty back?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

No, he doesn’t have to give the stamp duty back so he can probably uncoil.

STEVENSON:

Interesting, they probably need more resources, are you going to give them more resources - the tax office?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

We have given them more resources to do this, previously it was only a handful of people at the Foreign Investment Review Board, we now have a team of up to 50 people at the Australian Taxation Office who is conducting this work, and more than that the Australian Taxation Office as well as doing the sophisticated data matching that I spoke about, they are also involved in investigating some of those third parties that might be encouraging people to breach the law very deliberately, such as migration agents. You will see some news in the not too distant future about those people who are engaged in that activity and for the first time the Government has brought into law with the laws that we have got in the Parliament at the moment that will hopefully be passed very soon if the Labor Opposition support them, we are going to have laws for the very first time saying that parties who knowingly help others to breach our laws will be punished as well.

STEVENSON:

Are also going to be in trouble. Kelly nice to chat to you.  Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer.