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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3370

Senator COLEMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Finance representing the Treasurer and relates to the Taxation Debt Recovery Bill. What revenue would have been lost this year-and in total-if the Queensland Supreme Court decision on the statute of limitations stood and the Taxation Debt Recovery Bill had not been passed? What are the revenue loss estimates based on, and who would have gained and who would have lost if the Bill had not been passed?

Senator Messner —He answered this last night.

Senator WALSH —A very good answer it was too and that is why it needs to be repeated. Had the Queensland Supreme Court decision been allowed to stand and had the legislation not been passed, $200m in revenue would have been lost this year and $900m in total. The basis for those estimates is a survey taken from the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Taxation Office of the number of taxpayers who would have had their liability to pay their tax cancelled if the Opposition had had its way. From that survey an extrapolation was made for the rest of Australia. In other words it is an estimate with a very high level of reliability.

I was asked who would be the major gainers if the Opposition had had its way and managed to defeat the Bill. The gainers would have been people who had devised and used shonky paper tax avoidance schemes in the late 1970s in particular, which were subsequently disallowed by the Australian Taxation Office; who were then subsequently assessed by the Tax Office to have a liability to pay tax; who following that assessment abused and misused all avenues of appeal, in some cases right up to the High Court, but who finally lost through all those avenues of appeal and had legally established that they had a liability to pay the tax, but against whom, for a variety of reasons-one of which was that there was at that time no belief that there was any reason to do so-the Australian Taxation Office, though having issued an assessment, had not actually commenced action to recover the debt. Those people who devised shonky paper tax avoidance schemes in the late 1970s, who were then ruled by the courts to have a taxation liability, would have had their obligation to pay the debts, which had been established through the courts, gratuitously cancelled if the Opposition had had its way and defeated the legislation. They would have been the gainers. The losers would have been those millions of honest taxpayers, and particularly PAYE taxpayers, who have played the game and paid their tax when they should have paid it. I believe that the action taken by the Opposition last night was the most disgusting action to come out of the Liberal Party in the last decade. It establishes beyond all doubt that the Liberal Party is still the party of the tax avoider and the tax evader. I would like the Leader of the Opposition to seek an assurance from all the members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party and Parliamentary National Party that they would not have been personal beneficiaries of knocking out that legislation had the Opposition succeeded in doing so.