Federal Budget: tax dodging and aid cuts stoke global inequality and poverty

Campaigns and Advocacy, Foreign aid, Media Releases, News article written on the 03 May 2016

New measures to combat multinational profit-shifting announced in the Federal Budget fall short of the bold action needed to tackle the global scale of the problem, Oxfam said tonight.

Oxfam Australia’s Budget spokesperson Joy Kyriacou said from Canberra that while steps to tackle profit-shifting were a good start, the Australian Government’s failure to properly fix Australia’s faulty tax system would continue to promote poverty and inequality.

“This Budget fails to crack the combination to the Panamanian bank vault,” Ms Kyriacou said.  “Scott Morrison is going to need a more sophisticated toolkit to unlock the proceeds of the global tax dodge and free up billions of dollars for public services.

“The fact that so many corporations avoid tax in Australia begs the question – if these big multinationals are starving Australia of the money we could use for hospitals and schools, what are they doing in the poorest countries in our region, such as PNG, Myanmar and Cambodia?”

Ms Kyriacou said the announcement of further money to clamp down on multinational tax dodging – such as more staff for the ATO – did not go far enough to properly tackle the issue.

“The current proposals are a start, but alone are not enough to prevent the kind of tax abuse revealed in the Panama Papers,” Ms Kyriacou said.  “Along with the disincentives proposed today for large corporations to shift money out of Australia to tax havens, we need transparency such as public country by country reporting if we are to fully address the issue globally.”

The Australian Government also proceeded tonight with the slated $224 million in aid cuts.  Aid has now been reduced to the lowest level of GNI in Australia’s history – at just 23 cents in every $100 of national income.

“It beggars belief that the Government has now cut more than $11.3 billion from Australian aid,” Ms Kyriacou said.  “Oxfam has already had to scale back life-saving work in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Sub-Saharan Africa – the poorest region in the world – due to unprecedented aid cuts.”

Oxfam also voiced disappointment with the Turnbull Government’s failure to significantly increase support to developing countries adapting to climate impacts and that the small amount of support that is being provided has been taken from the rapidly dwindling aid budget.

“Australia is surrounded by some of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. For our neighbours in the Pacific, the impacts of shifting weather patterns, rising seas and destructive storms are already stark,” she said. “We saw it with Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu we saw it with Cyclone Winston in Fiji, which cost Australia tens of millions of dollars in response.”

Today’s aid budget broadly maintains the level of international climate finance that Australia has been providing since 2010, rather than scaling-up in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. To fulfil its share of the international goal of providing US$100bn a year by 2020, Australia will need to increase its annual contribution by around tenfold.

For interviews or more information, please contact Alice Plate on 0418 873 782 or alicep@oxfam.org.au