Speech - Constituency Statement (BHP)




MONDAY 22 MAY 2017

Thank you, Deputy Speaker.

Last week we received further confirmation of BHP's $1.4 billion tax evasion through its Singapore tax haven—or, to use BHP's Orwellian term, their 'marketing hub'. Vulture fund Elliott Advisors describe BHP's claims of transparency as disingenuous and its marketing hub as unsustainable. Now, when the poachers are outing the gamekeepers, it is really time for BHP to come clean: the Singapore hub is a rort and out-and-out tax evasion. BHP's failure to come clean is evidence of a boardroom culture that is not just selfish but rank with malpractice. Like other multinationals, it has been involved in a deceptive race to evade tax, to suppress wages and to casualise its workforce.

The $165 million allegedly scammed from the tax office by Plutus Payroll is deeply disturbing, but it leaves me asking this question: what is the difference between Plutus and BHP? Plutus stole $165 million of taxpayer's money that was on its way to the ATO. BHP pretends its marketing hub in Singapore adds value to a lump of iron ore. The iron ore is shipped directly on boats to China without even a visit to Singapore where billions of dollars of profits are out of reach of the ATO. In effect, BHP runs the most profitable shipping company in the world; however, it is one which does not provide services to anybody else.

So what is the difference between BHP and Plutus? Is it the quality of the suits of their executives? Is it the cars they drive? Not really. It is the army of accountants and lawyers and the executive board culture that is prepared to do anything to avoid its ethical responsibilities.  The Federal Court decision on Chevron some weeks ago tells us that BHP and many other multinational companies have been acting at the tax evasion end of the spectrum for over a decade and that BHP's aggressive transfer pricing is not a valuation dispute but outright tax evasion.

Both organisations—BHP and Plutus—are tax termites. They are tax termites that are eating away at the foundations of the Australian tax system and good government. The effect on the public purse is not of the same scale, but it is still tax evasion. Multinational tax evaders are costing the taxpayer between $4 billion and $6 billion each year. The activities of Plutus are absolutely reprehensible, but they represent a miniscule percentage of the rampant multinational tax evasion that is white-anting our revenue, crippling our capacity to fund health and education and pushing up tax rates for ordinary taxpayers. If BHP want to be known as 'the big Australian' and not 'the dishonest Australian', they need to come clean and get rid of their marketing hub.