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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1214

Senator JACK EVANS —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of a recent State survey which has found that two-thirds of Australia's major industry groupings pay an effective tax rate significantly below the so-called 46 per cent rate, with one complete industry group averaging less than half the official rate, and that individual large companies are paying as little as 0.11 per cent effective tax, I ask: Is this an indication that corporate tax avoidance continues to be widespread? As the report reveals that five major corporations are paying tax on their profits at less than 2 per cent, will the Minister tell the Senate what action the Government will be taking to ensure that a fair share of the tax burden is paid by profitable big businesses, thereby alleviating the tax burden on small businesses and pay-as-you-earn taxpayers?

Senator Robert Ray —Your mates.

Senator JACK EVANS —Not my mates, my friend. Pick your mark.

Senator WALSH —I am not aware of the report to which Senator Jack Evans has referred. I will pass on the basic request to the Treasurer to see whether he has any response to the substantive matters raised in the question. I wish to make one or two observations. The fact that effective tax rates are somewhat below 46 per cent is not of itself evidence of any malpractice, but some of the other figures Senator Evans quoted certainly sound alarming. However, without a lot of further investigation I would not like to jump to the conclusion that that is clear or decisive evidence of continuing tax evasion. If I picked up correctly the exchange of interjections that preceded the start of my answer, if we are in a situation where tax evasion-or, as those who like to be legally pedantic would put it, tax avoidance-is still widespread, I commend not to Senator Evans personally, because his record in this area is in my view completely satisfactory, but to other senators who do not have such a satisfactory record that the most effective way of ensuring that tax evasion cum avoidance is killed forever is the credible threat of retrospectivity. That is a clear warning to all actual or would be tax evaders avoiders that they will not be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains if they do manage to exploit loopholes in the law because this Parliament will legislate to ensure that the taxes that ought to have been paid will be paid sooner or later. I regret to note yet again that because of the actions taken by half of the members of this Senate that threat of retrospectivity is not credible.