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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3281

Senator BOSWELL(4.51) —There are 59,596 Australians who must be very upset. They are the people whom the Australian Taxation Office last year summonsed for not lodging a return or for providing the Tax Office with insufficient information. They are the people whom the Treasurer (Mr Keating), the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) call tax cheats, leeches and a number of other names. They are the people who have been prosecuted by the Tax Office. Did Trevor Boucher, the Commissioner of Taxation, make 59,596 phone calls to these people to say: `It is about time you lodged your tax return'? Can we imagine how those 59,596 people feel after being hounded by the Tax Office and prosecuted? They now find that the Treasurer, supposedly the person in charge of the Tax Office, has not even lodged a return and that, worse than that, he has not been summonsed after receiving his final notice. After the Prime Minister's statement that it is of no consequence if one does not lodge a tax return, these 59,596 people must be very confused. Will the Government still prosecute them? They have their summonses in the mail. Surely, what will happen now is that they will receive a phone call from the Commissioner, just as the average Mr Paul Keating received his phone call from the Commissioner.

This debacle highlights the unfairness of our taxation system. We have a Treasurer who can get away with not lodging a return for three years while small businessmen and primary producers are hounded at every turn by the Taxation Office. I remind the Senate of the problems of primary producers who are forced into paying under the inappropriate pay as you earn tax system. I have already raised in this chamber the problems of fishermen who have been forced into the PAYE system by a tax ruling last year. I refer to the situation of a trawler owner who receives income for eight or nine months of a year, whose income fluctuates dramatically, who is at sea for weeks at a time, and who is then forced to make weekly deductions for himself and his crew, as well as calculating and paying the ridiculous fringe benefits tax. Why is he forced to take this unproductive, unfair and inefficient course of joining the PAYE scheme in order to make life easier for the Tax Office? This is a shocking indictment of our economy and of the Tax Office. What about the people who are sub-contractors and who have been forced into the PAYE scheme? They are the productive people who have to carry our economy. They are bogged down in an inappropriate system, quite apart from the inordinate and discriminatory level of taxes. Small businessmen have every worthwhile concession removed from them-entertainment allowance, negative gearing and the fuel rebate. They must be disgusted that the nation's Treasurer does not even bother to lodge a tax return.

Debate (on motion by Senator Messner) adjourned.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT — Order! The time allotted for the consideration of papers has expired.