"It is not right that Australian businesses, big and small, shoulder an unfair share of the taxation burden, while highly profitable companies  make only a minimal contribution," says Bill Shorten.
"It is not right that Australian businesses, big and
small, shoulder an unfair share of the taxation burden, while highly
profitable companies make only a minimal contribution," says Bill

There are two particularly extraordinary things happening in
Parliament this week that give Australians a telling insight into the
Abbott Government.

In the House of Representatives, the Abbott Government is
trying to explain why it's reopened loopholes to allow multinational
companies to avoid paying tax.

In the Senate, the very same Government is trying to ram
through legislation that will make every Australian pay a GP tax
whenever they visit the doctor, or extra tax whenever they fill up their

It seems as though under Tony Abbott, taxes are only certain
in life if you're not a multinational company, with the ability to
offshore profits.

There's no doubt that sensible discussion of revenue needs to look at the integrity of Australia's company tax base.

Companies are minimising costs through technological
progress, innovation, outsourcing and automation – maximising their
performance through sophisticated software and computer modelling.

And because successful businesses are always looking for a
competitive edge, some multinational corporations are leading the way in
tax avoidance too.

As we've seen in the pages of the Herald over the past
few days, these efforts can substantially erode a nation's company tax
base. Further, it distorts the market, unfairly disadvantaging local

This is why, in Government, Labor announced reforms to close these loopholes and crack down on profit-shifting.

We introduced business tax integrity measures that would have clawed back more than $5.3 billion from these companies.

Time and time again, the Abbott Government has moved to water down these provisions.

After delivering the most unfair Budget in living memory, one
that has targeted: pensioners, families, students, carers, veterans and
the sick – the Government belatedly claimed it would legislate to close
multinational tax loopholes. 

But as Australians have learnt the hard way with the Abbott Government, the words mean nothing.

And when it comes to cracking down on companies avoiding tax, the Government's actions don't speak loudly at all.

That's because every time Joe Hockey and the Coalition had
the chance to work with Labor to close tax loopholes in the past few
years, they voted against it.

They voted against Labor's Countering Tax Avoidance and
Multinational Profit Shifting Bill 2013, which plugged loopholes in
Australia's transfer pricing rules and anti-avoidance provisions.

They attempted to block Labor's Cross-Border Transfer Pricing
Bill 2012, which cracked down on companies overvaluing assets in
international transactions.

Now they're in government, they've walked away from Labor
measures which would have delivered $1.1 billion to the budget bottom

Worse still, for all the huffing and puffing at the G20 from
Joe Hockey about the need to crack down on tax avoidance, he's signed
Australia up to a timetable that puts us behind over 40 countries,
including the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.

This means Australia won't sign up to the automatic exchange
of financial information across borders until 40 other nations are
already doing it, leaving Australia lagging behind.

Australia cannot sit at the G20 table and make the case for
co-operative international action on this important question if our
national Government is winding back legislation and re-opening loopholes
for profit-shifting.

This protection racket for corporate tax avoidance comes at a
cost to our budget bottom line – and it comes at a cost to Australian

While technological developments will mean that the physical
location of some businesses matters less and less with each passing
year, the principle of paying tax on incomes earned in a jurisdiction
must remain.

This is true for the local newsagent, the local tradie and the local pharmacist.

Bricks and mortar businesses earning an income in our cities
and regional towns, and paying their taxes. And our computer games
developers, iPhone app developers and software designers that are
working domestically and marketing globally.

Small business people taking risks for their family and our
economy – creating jobs, driving growth and giving back to our

They don't have the luxury of avoiding tax through complicated international loans or structures.

This is just as true for many larger businesses, which operate exclusively in Australia.

These companies employ thousands of Australians – and they pay the tax they should pay in Australia.

It is not right that Australian businesses, big and small,
shoulder an unfair share of the taxation burden while highly profitable
companies who benefit from our skilled workforce, our stable investment
environment and our growing economy make only a minimal contribution.

It's not right that the government will look to hit families
and workers with new GP and petrol taxes, and cut pensions, before it
looks to make multinational companies pay their fair share of tax.

The government has the opportunity to actually do something
meaningful here and ensure that companies pay their fair share of tax
before hiking up taxes on everyone else.

Bill Shorten is leader of the Opposition.