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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1486

Mr DAWKINS (Minister for Finance) —As the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House (Mr Lionel Bowen) has indicated, the honourable member for O 'Connor (Mr Tuckey) in a speech last night made some very serious accusations about an anonymous Minister in this Government, alleging that a Minister was a director of a company at one stage and that in the course of the period during which the Minister was a director of a company certain actions were taken. The accusations went to the point of alleging that there was a massive tax evasion involved in the transactions of the company.

Earlier today-at about midday-the honourable member for O'Connor went on the air in Melbourne and repeated most of these allegations, and indeed went further . He was asked by the interviewer:

I guess it goes without saying that you want to pursue this matter.

The answer from the honourable member for O'Connor was:

Oh yes, I'm hoping my Party will pursue it. I don't like their vendettas. I'm disgusted at what went on in our Parliament previously. I just hope now our Party raises questions and more importantly, I hope that the Prime Minister will match some of his rhetoric and conduct a simple inquiry to see if there was any substance whatsoever in the questions I have raised.

You will recall, Mr Speaker, that at Question Time today the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) rose and asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) about whether a Minister in this Government had been involved in tax evasion. The Prime Minister said no and invited the Leader of the Opposition to ask the question that apparently he did not have the guts to ask on that occasion. For some reason, although there was still an opportunity left at Question Time for further questions to be asked of either me or the Prime Minister, the Opposition decided not to take that course of action.

It is well known in the Press Gallery that the honourable member for O'Connor has not been prepared to name any names in here. Indeed he has declined the invitation of the Leader of the House just now to substantiate the claims and identify the person against whom they are made. He has squibbed it. He has claimed to be scrupulous about not mentioning names or companies. In fact I want to go a little further and say that at the end of the interview with Mr Nasht in Melbourne today, Mr Nasht said:

Well like Mr Tuckey, I'm not going to name the Minister involved without viewing the evidence. I did contact his office this morning and was told that no Ministers in the Hawke Government have anything on their conscience over these allegations.

As Mr Nasht rang my office, I assume that he was told which office to ring by the person he was interviewing; that is, the honourable member for O'Connor. That is why we decided that the honourable member for O'Connor or the Leader of the Opposition ought to have the opportunity to demonstrate his courage and his bravado and to substantiate the claims which the honourable member for O'Connor is making in this cowardly fashion about an anonymous person, while at the same time outside this House making it perfectly clear they believe that I am the subject of these accusations. This is not the first time that members of the Liberal Party have attempted to smear me. They have failed on previous occasions and, because of this inept and cowardly attempt now, they will fail again.

Despite the fact that the claims made by the honourable member for O'Connor last night are riddled with inaccuracies, in some of the statements which are true, as opposed to many of the statements which are wrong and certainly the conclusions drawn which are wrong, there is some vague resemblance to some of the affairs of a family company of which I was a director for a short time. What is so amazing about this? My association with that company was indicated in my declaration of pecuniary interests. So, the information was available long before the honourable member for O'Connor made these startling revelations! Even an amateur muck-raker could have found out the information which he subsequently was able to cobble together. So much easier it would have been for an expert muck-raker like him! Of course, he pretends not to be making allegations. He has mock and contrived pretensions towards proprieties and makes exaggerated disclaimers about all the accusations he made in his speech. He tries to instil a sense of mystery into what are perfectly proper and transparent commercial activities. He suggests taxation evasion on a massive scale. Yet we have demonstrated again today what a coward he really is. Neither he, the Leader of the Opposition nor anyone on that side has had the guts to carry on with this matter and to indicate what he means by it and what the substantiation of it might be.

It may be that the honorable member for O'Connor is attacking my father who established this company. It may be that he is attacking the liquidator of the company who is now in charge of the company and has been since 1978. Or it may be that he is attacking me. I do not particularly mind if he attacks me. I have demonstrated on enough occasions in this House that I am prepared to take as good as I give, and I would certainly be prepared to give a bit more to the honourable member for O'Connor. I do object to the implicit attack on my late father. I do not want to go into any detail about that except to say that, unlike the late fathers of some people in this place, the reputation of my father is completely unassailable. I am prepared to table for the benefit of those honourable members who may not already know the extract from Who's Who about my late father.

Maybe, therefore, the honourable member for O'Connor is attacking the liquidator. If he is, he should perhaps pursue the matters with the liquidator. The liquidator has responsibility for the affairs of the company and has had since the company went into voluntary liquidation in 1978. Because neither I nor any of the other former directors have had anything to do with the company or with the decisions that have been taken since that time, I contacted the liquidator and asked him for an up to date report on the circumstances, particularly the circumstances surrounding the claims of improper dealings in land and improper arrangements in relation to the sale of land. I want to quote from a report which the liquidator provided for me today. He said:

The liquidator lodged income tax returns during the period of the liquidation in which full and true disclosure of the sale was made. The company has unrecouped tax losses available to it at the present time of $45,000 which will not be recouped prior to the finalisation of the liquidation. The taxation department gave clearance to proceed to final distribution on 13 September 1978 and has been provided with taxation returns and details of the position of the liquidation annually since the date of liquidation.

So much for the suggestion that there has been some cover-up or some tax evasion on the part of the liquidator in relation to the affairs of this company. Clearly if the attack is not on the liquidator-if it was, the honourable member for O'Connor should have made it perfectly clear because the liquidator is a member of a very distinguished firm of accountants in Perth-clearly the exercise is about me. I make it perfectly clear that I am utterly relaxed about the accusations he makes about me. They are absolutely without foundation. If they are the best he can do, I can assure him that my current unsullied reputation will remain intact for as long as I want to remain a member of this chamber. The facts in relation to this matter, of course, have already been made available to the Prime Minister. They were provided to the Prime Minister at the end of July when the first declarations of pecuniary interests were provided to him. At the time I provided the Prime Minister with a letter which I will table. I quote:

I enclose my return of pecuniary interests.

I have attached a report from Touche Ross and Co. outlining my interests in and benefits derived from Coomel Pty Ltd (In liquidation).

I do so partly because it has come to my notice that inquiries are being made of the transaction involved by persons who may be politically motivated.

Should you consider it appropriate I have no objection to the report being tabled or published at the same time as my pecuniary interests are disclosed.

I have absolutely nothing to hide, and the details which I have provided to the Prime Minister were provided weeks ago. I knew somebody was rabbiting around and trying to find something which he could criticise me for and about which he could make accusations against me. Of course, the extraordinary thing is not that the honourable member for O'Connor has done it but that it has taken him so long to get round to doing it and that, having decided to do it, he has completely muffed it. He has been unable to make a mountain out of this little molehill. I cannot see why it should have taken him so long except for the fact that I suspect that he probably knows as well as I do that there is absolutely nothing in it.

All I say to the honourable member for O'Connor, as I was inclined to remind another honourable member of the Opposition a few days ago, is that if he is going to cast stones at me he ought to ensure that he is without sin himself. We all know in very graphic and technicolour detail some of the history of the honourable member for O'Connor, certainly before he became a member of this chamber. We know of the criminal charges against him and the fact that he bashed up an Aboriginal person in Carnarvon while that person was being held down by this brother and one other. He was belted around the head with a steel cable by the honourable member for O'Connor, who was convicted of that charge. We know of certain other activities of the honourable member for O'Connor when he was a member and the President of the Carnarvon Shire Council. There are suggestions of conflict of interest. There are suggestions of breaches of the Local Government Act and there may indeed be charges pending in relation to some of those matters. If the honourable member for O'Connor wants to box on with this matter I am perfectly happy to accommodate him.

I have nothing to hide in this matter. I have nothing to be concerned about in the slightest. All this has been brought about by the fact that this Government has had not only the courage but also the morality to disclose the interests of members of the Ministry. We did that quite voluntarily. We provided the information, and now the honourable member for O'Connor has sought to extend from that voluntary declaration of our interests some manufactured hyperbole about the circumstances which lie behind the particular activities of the company with which I was associated.

I conclude by saying to the honourable member for O'Connor that I am perfectly happy about the affairs of my family company. I have indicated already that I ceased to have anything to do with the company at the time that it went into liquidation and any transactions since then have been entirely decisions for the liquidator. I have also indicated the circumstances which completely blow apart the suggestion that there was any tax avoidance or evasion involved in any of the activities before or subsequent to the liquidation of the company. But I am prepared to go further and provide more details in relation to these matters, so long as the honourable member is also prepared to subject himself to the same sort of scrutiny, particularly in relation to the period during which he was a member of the Carnarvon Shire Council.

On the other hand, of course, the honourable member already has a great deal of information-which is available, as I said, from public sources-about this company and he may on this occasion be prepared to do the decent thing and provide us with details of his interests as well. If he is so prepared, of course I will be prepared to run my eye over them and perhaps report back to the House. Indeed, I might be prepared to do so even if he is not prepared voluntarily to submit himself to that process. I am sure such a report would be educational, if a little unedifying. Perhaps then we will see Wilson Tuckey fried.