Today one of the Abbott government’s most absurd bills will be introduced into Parliament.

The bill amends our tax laws to exempt 800 large private companies from publicly reporting their taxable income and the amount of tax they have paid.

At a time of widespread community concern about tax avoidance by large multinational and local companies in Australia, why is the government moving to reduce transparency?

Because of kidnapping.

That’s right, according to the government, potential kidnappers will go through the income and tax statements of private companies to determine the wealth of potential targets. (Would-be kidnappers are apparently more likely to go through the Australian Tax Office’s website than, say, buy a copy of BRW‘s Rich List.)

It’s a laughable excuse, and revealed to be all the more ludicrous when the Senate economics committee’s tax inquiry quizzed Treasury and the ATO about whether they’d received any advice or evidence — for example, from the Australian Federal Police — that this was a potential danger to individuals who own large private companies. They hadn’t.

It’s a furphy, and another example of the government’s defining philosophy of crony capitalism, under which it looks after its big donors and close friends by changing the law to suit them, while going after their competitors and critics with all the power a federal government can summon.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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