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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 672

Senator BOLKUS —I refer the Minister representing the Treasurer to the final report of Special Prosecutor Roger Gyles, QC, and, in particular, Mr Gyles's criticism of the Commissioner of Taxation for his refusal to co-operate in the task of obtaining and organising sufficient resources, in order adequately to exercise civil remedies against those involved in company stripping. In light of the comment of the Special Prosecutor, will the Minister indicate whether the Government will be moving to direct extra resources to carry out the task recommended by Mr Gyles?

Senator WALSH —I was aware of Mr Gyles's report and of previous reports from Mr Gyles along similar lines. I am advised that the position was that 80 trained auditors were specially allocated by the Australian Taxation Office to the investigation of the high priority targets, 166 in number, whom Mr Gyles had identified. It is a matter for judgment as to how many auditors ought to be appointed to various tasks.

It must be noted that there are a very large number of areas of tax avoidance and evasion activity. This particularly arose during the period of the former Government when outrageous tax schemes mushroomed across the country. The negative actions of members of the former Government, now in opposition, continue to aid and abet tax avoidance or evasion activity.

The most cost effective way of stamping out tax avoidance entirely would be a credible threat of retrospective legislation. But of course the Liberal Party of Australia, the National Party of Australia and two-thirds of the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine refuse to give such a threat any credibility. Indeed, the difference between the Government's attitude to tax evasion and the Opposition and its sort of hangers-on's attitude to tax evasion is this: The Government says that if somebody is caught today for having plundered the public purse yesterday he has to pay back the money that he has pinched. What the Liberals, the Democrats and Senator Harradine say is that if somebody is caught today for plundering the public purse yesterday, he does not have to pay back what he pinched yesterday, but if he pinches any more tomorrow he will have to pay that back.

Senator Chaney —Mr President-

Senator WALSH —No wonder Senator Chaney objects. That sums up, in a nutshell, the difference between us and the Opposition.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. My point of order is that the Minister, in making those remarks, is reflecting on a vote of the Senate, is out of order and should be told to desist.

Senator Robertson —Of course they are not out of order. They are completely in order.

Senator Chaney —The one thing that I can be sure of is that the honourable senator will never be the President of this place so his view does not matter.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order involved. I listened to the Minister for Finance. I do not consider that there has been a breach of the Standing Orders. I ask the Minister not to debate the answer to any question.

Senator WALSH —This reminds me of the bush jury sitting in judgment on a guy on a charge of cattle duffing. The jury found the defendant not guilty as long as he gave the cattle back. The judge then said to the jury that that was not good enough, that they could not bring down a judgment like that. So the jury went away and came back and said: 'We find the defendant not guilty and he does not have to give the cattle back'. It is about the same sort of attitude.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to answer the question. There have been some long answers today.

Senator WALSH —Yes, Mr President. Regarding the resources for the Australian Taxation Office, if the correct legislation were passed by the Senate there would be no need for additional resources for compliance and enforcement. Since the Senate will not pass that legislation, the Government has progressively, over recent years, allocated greater resources to the Taxation Office. For example, 392 extra compliance positions were created in the last Budget.