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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3152

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of public concern at the favoured tax treatment already given the Treasurer, which is now being justified by his claim that he is only a pay as you earn taxpayer, has the Government taken steps to establish the amount of the Treasurer's interest income from his investment account with the Greater Newcastle Permanent Building Society Ltd and from his deposit with the Commonwealth Bank Finance Co. Ltd? As the requirements of the Government's farcical declaration of interest legislation enable the Treasurer not to reveal the size of such deposits or income from them, or even his profits from the sale of antique clocks, has the Government satisfied itself and will it advise the people of Australia whether the size of the Treasurer's interest income would render him liable not only to PAYE tax but also to provisional tax? If it has not done so, why not?

Senator WALSH —Following the Goebbels technique of asserting something over and over again, the Opposition keeps asserting that the Treasurer has had favoured tax treatment.

Opposition senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Michael Baume has asked a very serious question about a member of another House. Senator Walsh is entitled to have his explanation heard in silence.

Senator WALSH —I do not believe that the Treasurer has received--

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I agree with you that it is a serious question, but the Minister opened his answer by referring to the use of the Goebbels technique. I suggest that that is scarcely an expression which is likely to reduce the Opposition to silence. I ask you to ask the Minister to answer the serious question in a serious and non-abusive way.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I repeat for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition that he knows that I have no control over how a Minister chooses to answer his question except as far as the realm of debate is concerned.

Senator WALSH —The technique of assertion ad nauseam until the assertion becomes in the minds of many people indistinguishable from the truth is a well-known propagandist device. I simply draw attention to the fact that the Opposition continues to make an assertion which I do not believe and have no reason to believe is correct. That was then supported by a series of other assertions or allegations, the validity or otherwise of which is not known to me. I do not know whether Senator Baume thinks that everybody in Parliament should have to publish his tax return. Again, if that is the view of the Opposition, it is a view that I would be quite willing to put to the Treasurer and possibly the Government. The Treasurer has admitted he has committed an error, a technical breach of the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Treasurer will be dealt with according to the established processes just as anybody else would be.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I specifically asked: Has the Government satisfied itself about matters that are revealed in the Treasurer's statement of pecuniary interests? As I said at the time, these do not outline the size of the deposits or whether the income from them would then render the Treasurer liable to provisional tax as well as PAYE tax. The burden of the question was: Has the Government satisfied itself on these matters?

Senator Gareth Evans —That is not a matter for the Government; it is for the Tax Commissioner.

Senator WALSH —As one of my colleagues just noted, it is a matter for the Commissioner of Taxation rather than the Government.

Senator Chaney —It is a matter for the Prime Minister.

Senator WALSH —Has he woken up again?

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Walsh, I ask you to respond to Senator Michael Baume's supplementary question.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. Ministers in this Government, unlike any other government in Australia's history, are required to submit for public scrutiny their pecuniary interests without quantifying necessarily those pecuniary interests. Ministers are also required to submit to the Prime Minister the quantification of those interests. That is a Prime Ministerial matter, not a government matter. Even though I do not formally represent the Prime Minister here, I suppose that is a question that I could pass on to him informally.