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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3148


Senator BROWNHILL —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the new substantiation rules introduced by Treasurer Keating define a taxpayer's place of abode for tax purposes as the residence where he or she lives with his or her family and sleeps at night? Is it further a fact that it is possible for a taxpayer to deduct an allowance paid for travelling expenses only if that money is paid to that taxpayer living away from the usual place of abode? Can the Minister confirm that the Treasurer lives with his wife and family in Canberra but received $17,600 in travel allowance, allegedly because he was away from the never-occupied home he owns in Sydney? Does the Minister agree that the Treasurer would not be able to claim the cost of his rental in Canberra against the allowance because such expenditure is not allowable as a deduction? Does this not mean that the Treasurer could be liable for more than $10,000 in additional tax, thus destroying his claim that he is entitled to a tax refund?


Senator WALSH —The short answer is no, and for this reason: The Commissioner of Taxation does not require substantiation of travelling allowances. However, if the Opposition would like that changed, I am perfectly willing to put that forward to the Treasurer for consideration. So everybody in this Parliament, every public servant who receives travelling allowance and probably a number of people in the private sector who also receive travelling allowance would have to substantiate that the allowance paid to them was in fact spent. If the Opposition wants to harass not only all members of parliament-they are a small minority of the people we are talking about-but also every public servant and every person in the private sector who receives a travelling allowance--


Senator Chaney —But they are not defrauding the system like Keating.


The PRESIDENT —Order! There are far too many interjections.


Senator Button —I have tolerated Senator Chaney for most of Question Time. He just said that those people are not defrauding the system like Mr Keating. I ask for a withdrawal of that. By a process of innuendo and smear people have been attempting to establish that. They have got nowhere. They have established that the Treasurer was late lodging his tax return; that is all they have established. It should be withdrawn.


The PRESIDENT —Order! The Chair did not hear the words used by the Leader of the Opposition but if he did use the words attributed to him by the Leader of the Government. I ask him to withdraw.


Senator Chaney —Mr President, the point I was making of course was--


The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw.


Senator Chaney —I withdraw, Mr President. The point I was making, of course, is that Mr Keating's position is not the same as that of the people to whom the Minister is referring.


The PRESIDENT —Order! The Leader of the Opposition has withdrawn.


Senator WALSH —Mr President, as I was saying, if the Opposition wants to harass all those people who receive travelling allowances, I will put that proposal to the Treasurer for consideration. If he chooses to take it further it can be considered by the Government. Indeed, I suppose at least with respect to some politicians there might be a case for doing that. For example, the present Leader and Deputy Leader of the National Party have brought up their whole families in Canberra in houses that they do not pay rent on because they own them. The former Leader of the National Party was paying all of $19 a week rental purchase, buying a house for $19 a week rent, until about three years ago. If the Opposition believes that because of the past behaviour of the former National Party Leader and the present behaviour of the present Leader and his Deputy the substantiation of travel allowance to members of parliament should be tightened up that is a proposition I am willing to put to the Treasurer.