Federal Labor will cancel cash refunds to taxpayers who claim tax credits on their dividends, potentially saving $5.6 billion a year. Opposition leader Bill Shorten will announce Labor’s intent to scrap the refunds in a speech to the Chifley Research Centre in Sydney today, saying current policy gifts “unsustainable largesse for high-income earners”. The policy, which would affect about 8 per cent of taxpayers and 200,000 self-managed superannuation funds, likely signals Labor’s intent to target rules benefiting wealthy voters in the run-up to the next federal election. Shorten’s announcement comes as the union movement calls for a $50 a week rise in the minimum wage.
Australia is forfeiting up to $90 billion in foregone tax revenue from resource companies, according to an Oxford University energy expert. In a submission to the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies academic Juan Carlos Boué said that despite “widespread and outrageous” tax avoidance by resources companies, “the country seems fated to become the jurisdiction obtaining the second lowest share of government revenue from oil and gas production” due to the uniquely generous government concessions granted to the resources industry. “The Australian petroleum fiscal regime is producing exactly the sort of fiscal outcomes that it was designed and intended to produce”, Boué said. Australia is set to become the world’s largest gas exporter by 2020, while only receiving $600 million in revenue this year.
New South Wales opposition leader Luke Foley has called for Australia to re-examine its immigration policy, including a possible lower migrant intake. Speaking to The Weekend Australian ($), Foley said major cities such as Sydney were “groaning under the weight of a surging population”, and that state governments should have a say in setting five-yearly migrant intake targets. Foley’s comments run counter to those of federal treasurer Scott Morrison and immigration minister Peter Dutton, who last month dismissed former prime minister Tony Abbott’s suggestion that Australia slash its migration intake. Foley emphasised his main concern was infrastructure, saying “we should never have a bar of the Hansonites wanting to take us back to some racially discriminatory migration policy”.
Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer has warned staff to expect “uncomfortable” revelations about the bank’s conduct as the banking royal commission gets underway today. In an email to staff, Hartzer said “you will hear about instances where we haven’t got it right for our customers”, and admitted that “over the last decade there have been too many cases where we have not treated customers with the respect they deserve”. The commission will begin witness hearings today, with initial hearings set to focus on consumer lending practices at the “Big Four” banks. Watch the hearings from 10am here.
And renowned Australian crime author Peter Temple has died. The South African-born Temple, 71, was the first crime writer to win the Miles Franklin Award for Truth in 2010. His Jack Irish series was adapted into a critically acclaimed ABC drama, while its 2007 predecessor, The Broken Shore, won the British Gold Dagger. Fellow crime writer Shane Maloney, best known for his Murray Whelan series, said of Temple: “He made every sentence count and shot the stragglers.”