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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2944


Senator COATES(5.23) —As I am Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, I thought I should enter this debate briefly. I made my main remarks at the time that the Committee report was brought down, but I think I should put the Committee's report in a little more perspective. It needs to be emphasised that the Finance and Government Operations Committee's recommendation was that retrospectivity is justified in this situation. Certainly, that was the view of the majority on the Committee. Recommendation 2 was a unanimous recommendation purely because that was a fall- back position for Government members on the Committee. It would be misleading to emphasise too much that that unanimity was a major factor in the Committee's report.

It needs to be emphasised that the Commissioner of Taxation indicated to us that something like $16m was involved in cases since the 1978-79 financial year, and possibly earlier than that, and that that financial year 1978-79 included the biggest case which involved about $7m. Certainly, to my mind, retrospectivity is very much justified and I disagree with Senator Jack Evans in his assertion that the case for retrospectivity is not yet proven. It is very much desired in these cases of particularly blatant and fraudulent tax avoidance . I should say that the reference to the Committee was in some ways a waste of time. At least one member of the Committee, and other members of the Opposition, made it clear at the time and since then that they had no intention of considering anything other than opposing the retrospectivity. They did not really look at the matter with an open mind. I believe this is one clear case where retrospectivity is justified.