Multinational tax evasion creates a dilemma for Treasurer Joe Hockey

One of the advantages of having a Senate where the government doesn’t control the numbers is that the Senate can set up inquiries into things that the government would prefer not to be enquired about.

A case in point is the inquiry into corporate tax avoidance. This enquiry is shining the spotlight into some dark corners that Treasurer Joe Hockey would prefer to remain unilluminated.

The membership of the committee is informative.

The Chair is Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.

Inquiry chairman Senator Sam Dastyari has marked himself out as one of Labor's rising stars
Inquiry chairman Senator Sam Dastyari has marked himself out as one of Labor’s rising stars

There is Senator Sean Edwards from liberals and Senator Matthew Canavan  from The Nationals. There are four Labour members Senator the Hon Kim Carr, Senator Chris Ketter, Senator the Hon Doug Cameron and Senator the Hon Jan McLucas and also the ubiquitous Nick Xenophon. Christine Milne also appears to have got a guernsey,

So it’s hardly a government dominated committee and it is clearly doing a very good job at exploiting its major political advantage of bringing matters to the attention of the public.

The time of the inquiry is immaculate, just before a budget where Joe Hockey will be struggling to find revenue sources to cover an increasingly large deficit and also endeavouring to regain some of the lost ground from the 2014 budgetary disaster.

It’s probably Hockey’s last chance at avoiding political oblivion and the straws in the wind don’t augur well. A poll in the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro indicated that 90% of those polled thought the government wasn’t doing enough about corporate tax evasion. So the ball is clearly in Hockey’s court in terms of multinational tax evasion.

The indications are that Hockey still thinks cutting down on pension benefits is the way to get the budget back into the black. If he brings them a budget that does not go, in some way, to stemming the flow of money out of Australia to tax havens such as Singapore and chooses to slug the pensioners (albeit the well-off ones), then he risks a huge political backlash and admiring this budget in the same kind of swamp is 2014 budget.

The smart money should be Hockey getting it wrong again

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