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What does Keating need to hide?

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164/92 May 14, 1992


The Prime Minister has attempted to justify his refusal to make tax records available to the WA Inc Royal Commission by virtually accusing the Commission of incompetence and bureaucratic infighting. This is an astonishing assault on an institution dedicated to cleaning up one of the worst financial scandals in Australian history.

The Prime Minister always regards attack as the best form of defence. But today's attack is a transparent attempt to hide the Government's determination to protect its mates.

His attack on the Commission is an attempt to bluff the Royal Commission out of continuing to demand access to tax files.

What does the Government want to hide and who does the Government need to protect? Why is Mr Keating rejecting the very reasonable pleas of the West Australian Labor Premier and the Labor Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives that access be given?

Mr Keating's basic point was that access to tax files could only be given if there was a "demonstrable" serious offence - yet it may be impossible to know that a serious offence has been

committed without access to the files. In effect, the Prime Minister's stance may be preventing the detection of very serious crime.

It is, of course, sheer coincidence that Rothwells turns out to be banker-in-chief to one of Mr Greg Symons' failed companies on the same day that the Government's determination to hinder the Royal Commission's work is revealed. But as long as Mr Keating persists in what is, at its most charitable interpretation, a

legalistic and nit-picking attitude, Australians are entitled to wonder whether the Government is trying to suppress a time bomb of mateship and corruption.

Mr Keating tries to exploit respect for privacy to justify his position. But this isn't just anyone proposing to trawl through tax office records - it's a Royal Commission headed by lawyers of the highest integrity and charged with the investigation of

matters of the utmost gravity.

And if it's wrong for Royal Commissions investigating Labor's friends to have access to this information, why was it right for Royal Commissions investigating Labor's enemies to get a special deal?