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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20118

Senator SHERRY (2:00 PM) —My question is to Senator Kemp, the Assistant Treasurer. Is the minister aware of the serious claims made in the Financial Review on 28 November that Mr Stephen Breckenridge, a partner at KPMG, has heavied senior tax office management to have special officers removed from audits or reviews of his big business clients on no less than eight separate occasions? What action does the minister propose to take to fully and properly investigate these claims?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —A lot of claims are often made, Senator, and you and I are aware that often claims are made in relation to audits. Seeing you have raised this particular issue with me, I will seek a briefing from the department on it and see whether there is any particular advice that I am able to provide to you.

Senator SHERRY —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. First, I must say I am surprised you have not sought a briefing already, given the serious nature of the claims. How appropriate is it for Mr Breckenridge, or indeed any other senior partner of an accounting firm, to pressure senior tax office management to remove ATO officers from their firm's big business case audits? How appropriate is it for the tax office to accede to requests to have ATO auditors pulled from big business accounts and then seek to have the officer concerned prosecuted over a supposed newspaper leak when no proof could be found?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —There are a lot of statements in that supplementary question and a lot of assumptions which are made. I think the best thing in these matters is to always find out what are the precise facts. As you know, Senator, the tax office is an independent body charged with very great responsibilities in relation to the administration of the tax act. You have raised a particular issue. I will seek some information from the tax office and provide you with a response.