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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 776

Senator COOK —My question is directed to Senator Walsh in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to yesterday's announcement by the Treasurer of further reforms to be made in the Australian financial sector. Is the Government satisfied that Australia's economic performance has generally benefited from the contribution of the financial sector, and is it satisfied that the reforms will be a further benefit?

Senator WALSH —I think it is probably unarguable that the financial sector has made some contribution to Australia's economic performance, although it is unlikely that at any particular time any financial or other system is perfect. The Government has made some significant changes, announced this week, to the financial system which it believes will lead to improvements. There have been suspicions in the past about anti-social conduct by some banks, but I do not know any valid reasons for holding such suspicions now. However, I will ask the Treasurer whether he is aware of any. I am certainly not aware of any evidence that merchant banks operating in Australia are being used for tax evasion or avoidance. However, it concerns me that there are reports that there are Australian shareholders in a merchant bank set up in Panama, which as we all know is a notorious haven for tax evasion, a bank with which the name of the notorious tax evader, Christo Moll, has been linked. However, it would be inappropriate for me to speculate as to whether these facts bear any relation to Senator Crichton-Browne's sojourn in Panama during his recent overseas trip.