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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3063

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.28) —in reply-Listening to Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle's glowing account of the alleged anti-tax evasion and avoidance record of the Fraser Government has reminded me of a Stalinist rewrite of history. According to Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, the Fraser Government waged an unremitting campaign against taxation avoidance and evasion. Let us try to reconcile that with the facts. So far as the bottom of the harbour schemes are concerned, the fact is that for years the former Treasurer, Mr Howard, received increasingly desperate entreaties from the Commissioner of Taxation to take action against those schemes because of the enormous leakage of corporate tax and other taxation revenue that the Commissioner had identified or believed existed. The reaction of the Fraser Government as far as the Treasurer was concerned was to do absolutely nothing until the scandals were fully exposed in the McCabe-Lafranchi report and one of the reports of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Only then, only after their exposure through completely independent bodies and because of the former Prime Minister's intention to have a quick election, did the Fraser Government move to take action against the perpetrators of the bottom of the harbour frauds. I note that even Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has acknowledged that the conduct of some of the people involved in those schemes was fraudulent.

So far as the former Attorney-General was concerned, he presided over the notorious five-year bottom of the drawer case. He sat on his hands for five years while his Department took no action whatsoever under the existing law which some people in the investigative branch of the Australian Taxation Office believed could have been used against the bottom of the harbour schemes. So on the one hand we had an Attorney-General who did nothing for five years and, on the other, a Treasurer who did nothing in response to the desperate entreaties of the Commissioner of Taxation which continued for more than two years. Finally , after those scandals had been publicly exposed by independent sources, the Fraser Government, facing a desperate election, decided to take action. That is a fact.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator WALSH —I do not intend to delay the passage of these Bills any further. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I responded briefly to Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle's apologia for five years of inertia. I think the fate of these Bills is fairly well known. Half of the members of the Senate will again, as they have done on previous occasions, prevent the Government from recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in taxation which ought to be paid. No further comment or debate, no matter how compelling or how rational, will make any difference to the way in which the members of the Senate will vote; they will vote the same way as they have before. Therefore, I suggest that the vote on the second reading be taken, Mr President.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.