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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2772

Senator JONES —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to an article in the Adelaide News on 17 November which referred to comments by the honourable member for O'Connor regarding the Australia Card? Do his statements of opposition to the effects of the card on cash payments amount to condoning tax evasion?

Senator WALSH —I did last week see the article in question. Originally I thought that a hoax Press release must have been issued, but apparently that is not the case. Evidently, or as far as I know, Mr Tuckey has been accurately reported. He said among other things that--

Senator Chaney —Mr President, before the Minister comments any further, I rise on a point of order. I think to suggest that a member of this Parliament was condoning tax evasion would in fact be a breach of the Standing Orders. It clearly would be a quite improper thing to do. I think such an allegation should not be permitted to be made against a member of this Parliament.

Senator Peter Baume —It is illegal.

Senator Chaney —It is illegal. We are talking about illegalities, Mr President; we are not talking about tax avoidance. I believe that the question is probably out of order and certainly any answer of the sort which is invited would be out of order.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I will allow the answer to be given at this stage. But I ask the Minister to keep in mind standing order 418 in replying to the question. I will listen to the Minister with interest.

Senator WALSH —Mr President, I think the facts speak for themselves. I was about to draw attention to some of the things which Mr Tuckey said. I can understand why Senator Chaney would not like to have them broadcast to a wider audience than readers of the Adelaide News. Mr Tuckey is reported-accurately, so far as I know-as saying that if and when the Australia Card is introduced the identity number of the card would identify interest received by bank depositors, shareholders and even, horror of horrors, `cash-starved farmers who sell a load of grain for cash to help their family. He was complaining that people who receive interest income and dividends and farmers who want to sell off a load of grain for cash would actually have to pay tax on the proceeds after the Australia Card was introduced.

That, of course, is one of the reasons why the Australia Card must be introduced. People who have been getting income in this way in the past and not paying tax on it are not entitled to do that and they should be forced to pay the tax which they have always been obliged to pay. Of course, as long as people like that or any other group are allowed to evade their tax liabilities by not declaring taxable income, honest pay as you earn taxpayers will have to pay more tax than they otherwise would have to do.

Of course, that strikes at the heart of the reason for the introduction of the Australia Card-that is, to ensure that everybody pays their fair share of tax. It is about fairness. Mr Tuckey is complaining about fairness. He is complaining that the poor, cash-starved farmer who flogs off a load of wheat and does not declare it will no longer be able to evade paying tax on it. Why stop at one load? Why not 10, 50 or 100? If one is going to condone the perpetuation of a system which allows somebody to flog off one load of grain without declaring the income and paying the tax which may be due on that income, one is leaving the system wide open to flog off 10, 20 or 100 loads of grain or whatever.

Indeed, it would seem to me that Mr Tuckey yearns for the bad old days-or the good old days as he probably sees it-some time ago, to which I referred in the Senate last week. Some years ago stock agents like Elder Smith, even before John Elliott took that company over, used to bring a gladstone bag full of bank notes along to the pig sales at Merredin, which is near where I came from, and hand over the cash to the people who were selling pigs. The sellers were using such imaginative names as Bob Menzies, Ned Kelly and so on.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister is clearly getting into the realm of debate. I suggest that he come back to the question.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —I would ask Ministers to reduce the length of their answers. I also ask the Minister to heed that request.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. The fact is that the law now requires people who receive income from the sources identified by Mr Tuckey to report that income. There is no doubt that some of them do not. The degree to which tax is evaded through non-declaration of that sort of income of course is much less certain. But there is no doubt that some people do not declare that income.

Consequently, PAYE taxpayers have to pay more tax than they ought to be paying and it is precisely that problem at which the Australia Card is aimed-that is, ensuring that everybody who receives income which they now have a legal obligation to declare for taxation purposes will be caught if they do not declare it, will be found out and made to pay the tax that they should pay.

It is all about fairness. Mr Tuckey is clearly opposed to that. He is certainly condoning tax evasion, arguing that tax evasion should be legitimised, accepted and, indeed, perpetuated. I look forward, though rather forlornly, to Mr Tuckey being rebuked by his Leader for having done that.