The 20-year-old grandfathering provisions that exempt some of Australia’s largest companies and wealthiest individuals from disclosure of their revenue, taxable revenue and tax is bad, outdated policy that, as Crikey revealed recently, protects some of the government’s biggest supporters from the basic transparency that other companies face. At a time when Australians are increasingly concerned about high-income earners and large corporations failing to pay their fair share of tax, its removal would be a step toward rebuilding confidence in our tax system.

But in a compromise with the Coalition today, the Greens have opted to preserve the provisions and merely remove a minority of those who benefit, at the very wealthiest levels above $200 million. The bulk of those who benefit from financial secrecy will continue to remain hidden.

Naively, the Greens claim that this compromise “will help build momentum to consign them [the exemption provisions] to the scrap heap” and promise they will “work with Labor and the cross-bench to bring the remaining Grandfathering provisions before a senate inquiry.”

Those benefiting from the Greens’ decision today have little to fear from a Senate inquiry. What they feared was the government, faced with not having its own legislation being passed by the Senate, being forced to remove these outdated provisions. Fortunately for these secretive high-wealth individuals and big companies, the Greens have let them — and the government — off the hook.

Plainly, under Richard Di Natale, the Greens are looking for greater parliamentary relevance by offering compromises with the Coalition. Whether that strategy appeals to the party’s base or not remains to be seen. But in this case, the search for relevance has yielded a poor policy outcome — perpetuating a system that voters increasingly see as unfair.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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