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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3249


Senator MESSNER —I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I inform the Minister that documents lodged in the Land Titles Office in Sydney show that $60,000 from the sale of a shop in Paddington was received by the Treasurer on 25 July 1984. I refer the Minister to the Treasurer's statement in the House of Representatives on Friday, and I quoted:

Whatever appropriate inclusions will go in my tax return of course would have been there, as appropriately they should.

Has the Government inquired, and if not, will it so inquire, as to whether income from this source received by the Treasurer was disclosed in the 15-month late 1984-85 tax return he lodged last week?


Senator BUTTON —The first thing I should say about that is something I have said all along: Despite the desperate efforts of Opposition senators, this is a matter between the Commissioner of Taxation and an individual taxpayer. The assumption by Senator Messner-even if the facts were as stated-is that any such sum of money was in fact income.


Senator Chaney —Some or all of it?


Senator BUTTON —I do not know, but I think that Senator Messner ought to be very careful about some of the assumptions he makes. I am only trying to help. To the extent that the question may be based on false assumptions, I suppose we will be able to bounce it on the Opposition at some time in the future, and we will do that.


Senator Chaney —Are you threatening me?


Senator BUTTON —Yes, I am-very nicely, though. The matter is essentially one between the Commissioner of Taxation and the taxpayer. I have nothing more to add, except to say that it is important--


Senator Chaney —What about your BHP shares?


The PRESIDENT —Order! There are too many interjections.


Senator BUTTON —Not very good, either, Mr President. That is my problem with them.


Senator Puplick —One of your problems.


Senator BUTTON —The point I was about to make is relevant to Senator Puplick as well as to Senator Messner. It would be a tragedy if on the basis of all these scurrilous and probably false assumptions the Liberal Party continued to degenerate into a name-calling, factionalised body rent by leadership struggles, which bringeth the verdict that when Australia needed the input of Liberals it was not a party of big enough people to answer the call successfully. That is what it is all about. They are not my words, of course; they are taken from the editorial of yesterday's Australian.


Senator MESSNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister agree that if even a part of the $60,000 profit represented income, that would destroy the Treasurer's assertion that he would have received a refund for the 1985 financial year?


Senator BUTTON —I am not any longer a practising lawyer nor a practising tax consultant and I do not give free advice on highly hypothetical matters to Senator Messner, who is probably desperate to get a bit of advice about anything he can get. I will not give it free. This is a matter between the Tax Commissioner and the taxpayer. It is not a matter about which I intend to give advice on the basis of totally hypothetical and, if I might say so, nitwitted assumptions.