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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3043

Senator CHANEY —I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government has made inquiries to satisfy itself that the Treasurer's tax affairs are in order, particularly the Treasurer's claim that, as a pay as you earn taxpayer, he expected a tax refund for the 1984-85 tax year. Has the Treasurer been asked to explain his taxpayer status, given his reported involvement in the sale of a shop which, it is alleged, he bought three years earlier and on which he made a reported profit of $60,000? Further, has he been asked to explain whether he received any income in the relevant year arising from any investment or business activities in which he was involved, or indeed any income beyond his parliamentary and ministerial allowances and salary from any source which could be regarded by the Commissioner of Taxation as taxable income?

Senator BUTTON —The first part of the question relates to, to use Senator Chaney's terminology, whether `the Treasurer's tax affairs are in order', particularly in relation to the filing of his tax return for the year 1984-85 and that return. The Treasurer has already made a statement about that matter and any question of whether or not he would be entitled to a refund is basically a matter between the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation.

Senator Michael Baume —Not any more, it isn't.

Senator BUTTON —Is `not any more' the view of the Opposition?

Senator Michael Baume —It is properly a matter of public interest.

Senator BUTTON —It is properly a matter between the Commissioner of Taxation and the Treasurer. I have been advised by the Treasurer that it is his belief that he will receive a tax refund in respect of that year, but the final determination of that question is, as I said, a matter between the Commissioner of Taxation and the Treasurer. All other matters raised by Senator Chaney in his question are a matter between the Tax Commissioner and the Treasurer as a taxpayer.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I find that an extraordinary answer from a Minister who has a motion for the declaration of pecuniary interests before the Senate. I ask the Minister whether he is suggesting that there is no Government interest-Government interest as against a Commissioner of Taxation and an individual Minister interest-in the taxation affairs of the Treasurer when it has already been admitted by the Minister that he was in default of his taxation obligations in respect of filing a return and when there are other public allegations which suggest that his status as a pay as you earn taxpayer is in doubt. Is the Minister telling the Senate that the Government has no interest in this matter and no duty to examine this matter and to satisfy itself that the Treasurer is in fact meeting his obligations under the taxation legislation?

Senator BUTTON —The law on that matter is as clear as a bell. It is a matter between an individual taxpayer and the Commissioner of Taxation.

Senator Chaney —Why are we having declarations of interest, then?

Senator BUTTON —Declarations of interest do not go to the question of taxation.

Opposition senators-Ha, ha!

Senator BUTTON —Three years after we provided for declarations of pecuniary interest of members of parliament Opposition senators are still swinging the lead on it all, as are Opposition members in the House of Representatives. They do not like it too much. We have this ludicrous situation where the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is trying to confuse the question of the obligations of a taxpayer to the Commissioner of Taxation with statements of pecuniary interest of members of parliament. Those opposite do not understand either issue. That is why this country got into all the trouble it did get into when the other side was in government.