“[You] didn’t just attack me. You attacked the dedicated and skilled people who come to work at EnergyAustralia every day, looking to do their best for our customers and their own families,” she said in the letter.
She said the company started a three-year turnaround in 2015 and had been paying tax since October 2017 with $300 million in corporate tax paid in the past two financial years. She also took issue with her family home’s street name being shared and requested a meeting.
Senator Patrick responded in a letter on Friday seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, where he outlined issues relating to corporate tax avoidance in Australia and asked her for more information about EnergyAustralia’s Hong Kong-based parent company’s use of tax havens.
He has also warned he will continue his campaign against individual directors of companies using tax minimisation techniques he believes don’t hold up to community expectations.
But Senator Patrick said in his letter to Ms Tanna there was evidence of a “very serious national problem, which impacts on Australian government revenue and the ability of government to provide services to and advance the collective interests of the Australian people”.
“I am of the view that there will be little change to this unless prominent company directors are publicly held to account for their responsibility,” he said.
“This may well be an uncomfortable experience for some businesspeople who have received little scrutiny and who rarely attract any publicity other than in circumstances favourable to themselves.”
In the response he requested that she contact EnergyAustralia’s owners CLP Group in Hong Kong as he was “interested to understand what legitimate purpose it has for domiciling entities incorporated with limited liability under the laws of the British Virgin Islands, a notorious tax haven”.
He also defended using the name of the street where she lives in his speech, saying it was a “manifestation of your corporate success” and could be bought online from publicly available official records.
Senator Patrick told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he was hoping Ms Tanna would come to the meeting with an explanation of the purpose of the offshore owning entities being in locations known to be tax havens.
He said he would “reflect on the inclusion of a street name” in future speeches but was committed to naming and shaming more corporate identities under parliamentary privilege.
“It allows me to say inside the Parliament what my constituents can’t say outside of the Parliament and in that context I am very comfortable with what I am doing,” he said.
“[Tax minimisation and avoidance] is an issue that most people have a concern about and the difficulty is, to-date, no one has been prepared perhaps to take an issue on in the manner in which I am doing so.”
EnergyAustralia declined to comment.
Jennifer Duke is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra.