UNIONS claim Senators will be grilling ExxonMobil executives in the new year over corporate tax.
The Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance was due to report back this week, but the inquiry has been extended to allow more companies to be questioned about their tax arrangements.
The inquiry is due to reconvene early next year, with unions saying ExxonMobil executives could be called up in March to answer questions.
However The Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance Committee Secretariat office told the Gippsland Times on Wednesday that no decision had yet been made as to whether ExxonMobil would be asked to appear before the inquiry in the new year.
On December 1 last year, the inquiry was broadened to include Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry.
The committee has asked to receive submissions on the treatment and payment of royalties, the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, deductions and other taxes by corporations involved in Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry, including issues relating to the collection of these moneys by government.
The Make Exxon Pay campaign is taking the credit for having the inquiry extended.
The campaign is supported by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union and Australian Workers Union whose members at ExxonMobil-operated onshore and offshore gas facilities in Gippsland have been fighting for their jobs back for 170 days at what they say should be “fair wages and conditions” .
An ExxonMobil spokesperson said the company had previously appeared twice before the inquiry, and would continue to participate, if required.
“If we are asked to participate again, this will be another opportunity to highlight the significant investment the company has made and continues to make in Australia and the tax contribution associated with that investment,” he said.
The spokesperson said the union protest continued to provide “misinformation about ExxonMobil”.
“ExxonMobil Australia’s entities have made a significant contribution to the Australian economy through the reliable supply of energy to fuel economic growth, as well as through direct tax and royalty payments to state and federal governments,” he said.
Unions say ExxonMobil paid no corporate tax on more than $18 billion of revenue from its Australian operations in the past two years.
However the ExxonMobil spokesperson said ExxonMobil Australia was currently in “a corporate income tax loss position”, which had been reported in its statutory accounts, and were public documents.
“A corporate income tax loss is attributable to the significant investments being made in Australian oil and gas projects such as the Kipper Tuna Turrum project, Longford Gas Conditioning Plant, Longford Liquids Pipeline and the Gorgon project in Western Australia,” he said.
“With a total investment of more than $20 billion, of which 70 per cent has been invested over the past five years, we are a substantial investor in the Australian economy.”
He also pointed out that since the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax was first applied to the Gippsland Basin Joint Venture’s operations in 1990, Esso had paid more than $12 billion in PRRT to the federal government.
“When combined with corporate income tax during the past decade, this equates to more than 50 cents in the dollar tax paid,” he said.
“Esso paid $251 million in PRRT in 2016 and $188 million in PRRT in 2015.
“As a large and high-profile taxpayer, ExxonMobil Australia receives ongoing review from the ATO and other revenue authorities.”
The unions say an independent report by the Tax Justice Network, due to be released today, outlines some of the mechanisms the company uses to deal with corporate tax.
In the meantime, they say the Make Exxon Pay campaign will be ramped up during summer.