Tony Abbott must achieve ‘concrete results’ or risk losing G20 influence, says Wayne Swan

Former treasurer Wayne Swan says Tony Abbott must achieve results when G20 meets in Sydney. Photo: Louie DouvisFederal politics: full coverage

Former treasurer Wayne Swan has warned that Australia risks losing global influence unless this year’s G20 summit achieves concrete results on issues such as multinational tax avoidance.

Ahead of this weekend’s meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Sydney, Mr Swan also urged the Abbott government not to play “tacky domestic politics” while global leaders are in Australia.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has flagged he will press for an international crackdown on tax avoidance by companies such as Google, Apple and resources firms at this year’s G20 leaders’ meeting in Brisbane.

”The G20 simply can’t afford to have an average outcome at this meeting because there are many sceptics and if the G20 loses its way we will be back to the G7, G8 or G10 and you can be sure Australia won’t be at the table in that arrangement,” Mr Swan told ABC radio on Tuesday morning.

”I certainly hope that the larger nations at the table – both developed and developing – put forward a very aggressive agenda to deal with profit sharing and (tax) base erosion.

”You see, there are multinational companies that aren’t paying tax at all. Or there are multinational companies that are avoiding tax in domestic jurisdictions and domestic taxpayers are missing out . . .

”What we need to see is some concrete actions from the larger economies to make sure [a global deal has] got some teeth.

”One thing we could do to put some bite into it is an Australian initiative where you change the law to make sure companies publish not just the tax paid but their taxable income.”

Mr Swan, now a Labor backbencher, acknowledged the G20 had produced some “disappointing outcomes” following its lead role co-ordinating the global response to the 2008 financial crisis.

He criticised Mr Abbott for using a speech at a World Economic Forum meeting in Switzerland last month to criticise Labor’s stimulus spending.

”I think it’s very unfortunate the prime minister would use his first [international] outing on to play partisan domestic politics.

”I’d certainly welcome a more mature discussion free of the really blatant partisanship that we see from Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott not just locally but now internationally.

”That’s got to stop and should stop while we have international leaders in Australia this week. We should be talking our show up not down like the government has been doing every month.”