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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3015

Senator COLLARD —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask the question particularly considering his reply to Senator Parer and his comments on intent and entitlement to refund. I refer to the case of a taxpayer who on 21 April 1986 received a summons from the Australian Taxation Office for lodgment of his 1984-85 income tax return, for which he had gained an extension until 28 February 1986. The next day the taxpayer sent a copy of his return to the Tax Office but received no acknowledgment. However, the Tax Office could find no record of lodgment and, despite repeated offers by the taxpayer to provide other copies of his return, on 15 May 1986 the magistrates court fined him $200 plus costs and gave him seven days to make payment, otherwise 24 days in gaol. Was not the taxpayer in this actual case, who was entitled to a refund, less at fault than the Treasurer? Does not this case illustrate that there is one standard for ordinary taxpayers in this country and another for the Treasurer?

Senator WALSH —The answer to the last part of the question is no. I do not know what a penalty imposed by the court has to do with the administration of the Income Tax Assessment Act or the Commissioner of Taxation. I think the honourable senator was referring to a court penalty and equating it with a penalty being imposed by the Commissioner. It is quite different.

Senator Durack —Why don't you just sit down.

Senator WALSH —Why does the honourable senator not file himself away in the bottom drawer where he hid the tax returns of his tax evasion mates and the recommendation to prosecute?

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask for dignity to be restored to the chamber. I ask the Minister to ignore the interjections.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. Even in the normal humbug of politics I find it a bit much that Senator Durack, who sat on the recommendation to prosecute one of his Liberal Party tax evading mates for five years to protect his own pre-selection--

Senator Durack —I take a point of order, Mr President. I am sick and tired of hearing this patent lie being constantly peddled by Senator Walsh. He knows that it is perfectly untrue. I had nothing whatever to do in a personal capacity with the matter. I ask for the comment to be withdrawn and not to be repeated.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Durack claims that there has been a breach of standing order 418 in that an imputation has been made against him by the Minister. I ask the Minister to withdraw it.

Senator WALSH —Very well, Mr President. I withdraw it, if he finds it offensive.

Senator Durack —Mr President, I want a complete withdrawal, not a qualified withdrawal.

Senator Grimes —You are a humbug. You provoked it. If you provoke these things, cop them when you get it back. You are a humbug.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.

Senator Grimes —I suppose I will have to withdraw, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw.

Senator Grimes —I withdraw.

The PRESIDENT —I ask Senator Walsh to respond to the question asked by Senator Collard.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. The question, for those who cannot remember it, concerned an alleged lodgment or posting of a return to the Taxation Office. As I understand it, when people claim to have posted a tax return, a cheque on assessment or whatever, it is normal practice for the onus of proof to rest with the taxpayer. Although there is a bit of rough justice about that, it is pretty obvious I would have thought, even to Senator Walters, that if the Commissioner were to do otherwise it would make taxpaying virtually voluntary. Anybody who was caught for not paying tax could say: `I sent the cheque last year'. It is necessary for the effective enforcement of the Act that that presumption is made by the Commissioner.

Senator Messner —Why was it not exercised in respect of the Treasurer?

Senator WALSH —I repeat that the Commissioner requires the taxpayer to prove that he has lodged a return and that the uncorroborated word of the taxpayer that he has posted off a return is not taken to be good enough. Finally, I can see that Opposition members, in their desperation, want to get something out of a technical breach of the Income Tax Assessment Act by somebody who had no intention whatsoever of depriving the Commonwealth of revenue, whereas Senator Durack when he was Attorney-General, or his department, had a recommendation to prosecute his old Liberal Party mate Syd Corser.

Senator Walters —Mr President, I take a point of order. Senator Durack had no personal gain, whereas the Treasurer did; he received a phone call from the Commissioner of Taxation telling him to pay his tax and he did not do it.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. Under standing order 100, I ask Senator Walsh to get out of the realm of debate-he is clearly debating the matter now-and to respond succinctly and in a straight manner to the question by Senator Collard.

Senator WALSH —I have answered the question.