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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3257

Senator SHEIL —My question is also directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer the Minister to his answer yesterday concerning the Australian Taxation Office's prosecution of a man who claimed a 1985 tax refund of $1,381, 10 weeks after the due date. The Minister argued that whether he had actually got a refund was relevant and that the Commissioner of Taxation would be more likely to prosecute someone who had a `long and scungy' record with the Taxation Office. I ask: Given that the man did actually receive a refund of $1,376, and given that he had been an honest taxpayer, scrupulous in his relations with the Tax Office, will the Government now instruct the Commissioner of Taxation to review his and similar cases?

Senator Walters —Hear, hear!

Senator WALSH —I would like it noted for the record that Senator Walters, by way of interjection, advocates a policy under which the Government can instruct the Taxation Commissioner to do anything the Government wants the Taxation Commissioner to do with respect to the taxation law. That is not a policy which the Government supports. Were it to be the actual policy, I am sure that an instruction to the Tax Commissioner to investigate the affairs of a number of named prominent members of the Liberal Party would produce some very interesting outcomes. However, Senator Sheil asked me whether the Government would instruct the Tax Commissioner to do this. The Government is not able to instruct the Tax Commissioner in that way.

Senator Sheil has told us that the taxpayer in question did receive a refund. I suppose I am willing to take his word on that, because the question of whether a cheque was written and received is a pretty black-and-white question-although not all mail posted from the Tax Office, as we know, is received. Some of it is diverted along the way. I have noted with some satisfaction that the Opposition Leader was quoted in the Press today as saying that he will co-operate fully with Australia Post in its inquiry into mail theft, which means, of course, that he will tell the post office who handed him the photocopy of the original letter. As to whether the taxpayer in question had a perfect, immaculate record of compliance with the tax law, that is a much more subjective question, a judgment on which, I presume, was made by the Tax Commissioner. For the reasons I have already stated-that is, what the law requires the Tax Commissioner not to divulge-neither I, nor the Treasurer, nor the Prime Minister nor anyone else is able to second judge that issue.