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Shadow Treasurer discusses GST irregularities in Liberal Party.



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MEDIA RELEASE The Hon Simon Crean MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Treasurer

TRANSCRIPT OF RADIO INTERVIEW, WITH HOWARD SATTLER, 2SM, 24TH AUGUST 2001

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subject: Liberals’ GST scam

SATTLER: Now the Liberal Party and its autocratic Tax Commissioner are red hot, we know this about all of us paying our fair share of tax. No one should dispute that. Our fair share of tax. If you’re entitled you claim it, if your not you shouldn’t. And the rules should be set in stone not made retrospective as well, I’ve got to say that. This is the rule from today. We’ve all got to adhere by it or adhere to it. But pity it doesn’t apply the same principles to itself. I’m talking about the Liberal Party. The Party, and especially its Queensland Branch and at least one Federal Minister have been caught involved trying to evade goods and service tax by claiming rebates on money that hadn’t even been paid. Its attempts to rort the system even caused the resignation of a Branch Council Treasurer, rather she said than and I quote her “cheating on the Government”. Another quote from the Small Business Minister, Ian MacFarlane and he’s right involved in this, he’s also damning of the party. The lady I’m talking about, the former Treasurer of that Council Branch says he told her “if this got out it could bring down the Government”, if this got out. Well it has got out. Revelations about the scam have enveloped Mr MacFarlane, he is the Small Business Minister for the time being. Treasurer, Peter Costello who we know was alerted to the rort almost six months ago and was the key speaker at one of the functions for which the Liberals tried to claim rebates to which they were not entitled. Pay your tax people but not us. Simon Crean’s the Opposition Treasurer, and they had delight yesterday in bringing this to the Parliament. Hello Simon.

CREAN: Howard how are you?

SATTLER: Thanks for joining us. Now how did they try to work this?

CREAN: What the scam?

SATTLER: I mean as I understand it, they weren’t entitled to claim a rebate, is that right and they tried to?

CREAN: That’s right. They were claiming the tax credit inputs when they hadn’t paid the tax. You can’t do it Howard.

SATTLER: So they wanted the Tax Office to pay them back money, right?

CREAN: Yep. That they had not paid the tax on.

SATTLER: [Laughter]

CREAN: So they don’t pay the GST. And if you don’t pay the GST you can’t claim input. The business can.

SATTLER: Did they get away with it?

CREAN: Of course they got away with it. The only reason they’re not now getting away with it is because someone in the Liberal Party couldn’t stomach the deceit.

SATTLER: Mrs Watts?

CREAN: Mrs Watts. If she hadn’t come forward, and she did more than that of course, she resigned over the issue, they would have got away with it. Now understand the significance of this Howard. This is the Minister for Small Business telling every small business around the country you can’t avoid this tax. And yet he as the Minister is avoiding it for his own fundraising activities. You have one set of rules for every small business in the country, but different rules if you’re a John Howard Minister.

SATTLER: Now we’re not talking about a lot of money in the whole scene, but it’s the principle isn’t it?

CREAN: Well we don’t know if its a lot of money. See this is the one that we know about. But the minutes themselves show that it has also happened in at least two other FECs…

SATTLER: What are they?

CREAN: …Party branches in Brisbane. We suspect a lot more than that. And the interesting thing is that the Director of the Liberal Party in Queensland, who won’t come out and be interviewed, who organised this scam, is now the Liberal Party Director in South Australia. So you’d have to think they might be into it over there too Howard.

SATTLER: So has the Liberal Party got the money? Did the Tax Office give them the rebate?

CREAN: What happened was that they claimed back from the Tax Office it would appear the GST credits that had been originally invoiced to Groom. So they’re sitting on money that should have been ultimately sent to the Tax Office. They’ve organised to claim the credits and not have to pay.

SATTLER: So they haven’t…

CREAN: ….you can’t claim them.

SATTLER: Okay, now how’s the Treasurer involved in this? He just went along to talk to one these dinners, didn’t he?

CREAN: Well that’s what he says. But we now know from his own press release last night that he knew about this in February.

SATTLER: Who told him?

CREAN: Mrs Watt. She wrote to him. And you know this is last February Howard. He in the Parliament to me yesterday said, if you’ve got the information, send it to the Tax Office for investigation. Well I’ve done that. I’ve sent it to the Tax Office. But this is the Treasurer saying to me, I should give it to the Tax Office, he as Treasurer had this information in February and didn’t do it himself.

SATTLER: And Mr Macfarlane, what’s his involvement?

CREAN: Well Macfarlane, he was part of and covered up the scam. So he has to resign. What Peter Costello has to do is resign as well. Because he has admitted knowing about this problem in February and doing nothing.

SATTLER: Well you know they won’t?

CREAN: Well let’s wait and see. Also on the face of it, they have misled the Parliament. Yesterday, Ian Macfarlane said he knew nothing about that, all the evidence shows he did. And yesterday in the Parliament, Peter Costello said he knew nothing about it. And yet he’s got a letter in February advising him of it. Now they’ve told the Parliament they knew nothing. That’s misleading the Parliament and that’s a resigning offence on both counts.

SATTLER: Well you haven’t got the numbers to make them resign. Who can?

CREAN: Well I think the public pressure has to make them resign. I mean you say we haven’t got the numbers, but this a government that in the last five years I think lost eight Ministers through resignation. Remember the travel rorts?

SATTLER: But they can’t afford to lose people of the ilk of Peter Costello, this close to the election?

CREAN: You cannot condone fraud and cover up, you can’t condone double standards. You can’t have the Treasurer of the country that loves to speak the name of the GST, but is prepared to condone cheating on the GST. When he’s telling small businesses they can’t cheat, when he says to small businesses the GST is going to close the black economy, but he’s got his own Liberal Party ripping into the black economy.

SATTLER: We’ll leave you their Simon, thanks a lot.

ENDS