Database Senate Hansard
Date 25-02-1985
Source Senate
Parl No. 34
Electorate NSW
Interjector Senator Chaney
Page 114
Party ALP
Questioner Senator CHILDS
Responder Senator WALSH
System Id chamber/hansards/1985-02-25/0035


Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What is the Minister's estimate of revenue lost to the Commonwealth due to tax avoidance and evasion? What steps is the Government taking to recover this loss of revenue?

Senator WALSH —A number of estimates have been made of the amount of tax outstanding, principally in the Commissioner of Taxation's annual report for 1983-84 which on page 46 gives a figure of scheme debts of almost $2 billion-$1,953m-and of non-scheme debts, a good deal of which is tax which has been assessed and ought to have been paid but has not yet been paid, and of what one would call late payments, of an additional $1.3 billion. I am not sure whether that assessment incorporates the matters raised by the Auditor-General and to which Senator Tate's earlier question referred.

Senator Childs asks what has the Government done about this matter. First, there has been a major increase-I now have the figures-in staff in the enforcement branch of the Taxation Office in the last financial year. An additional 420 staff were appointed in the enforcement branch. In this financial year provision was made for an additional 392, making a total of 812 staff positions in the enforcement branch to enforce more effectively the law and eliminate that backlog.

The Government has taken a number of other measures and has attempted to take other measures to deter tax evasion. I refer, for example, to the bottom of the harbour recoupment legislation, which was rejected four times by half this Senate, including Senator Harradine who, contrary to the way in which he had voted for the Fraser Government's legislation, reversed his vote and prevented the Government collecting the revenue which ought to have been paid years ago. He votes in favour of the tax dodgers when his vote matters and against the tax dodgers when his vote does not matter. We have also introduced the prescribed payments system to eliminate the tax avoidance or evasion--

Senator Chaney —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. The last comments of the Minister about Senator Harradine reflect on his good faith and, I think, are unparliamentary and should be withdrawn. The fact is that Senator Harradine voted for certain legislation. He has voted against quite different legislation. Indeed, that is a stance which has been adopted by Opposition senators, the bulk of whom voted for particular legislation but refused to go along with the then Labor Opposition's desire to extend that legislation

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is not in order for you, Senator Walsh, to reflect on the integrity of the way in which Senator Harradine votes. You should withdraw those words.

Senator WALSH —Mr Deputy President, I do not know whether you were listening. I simply stated the facts. Senator Chaney chose to debate the issue.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I was listening. You were reflecting on the integrity of Senator Harradine and you should withdraw that remark.

Senator WALSH —In deference to you, Mr Deputy President, I withdraw. The other action of a legislative kind which the Government has taken relates to the cherry picker scheme, again rejected by the Senate. We have taxed lump sum payments which were being used by short term employees for avoiding tax by taking what was in fact deferred wages in lump sum form, removed tax exemptions for friendly societies and done a number of other things which I do not propose to read out at this stage. The Government has taken action of both a legislative and a staffing nature to ensure that the existing law is enforced more effectively and that the law is improved where it needs to be improved to ensure that tax avoidance and evasion of the magnitude which has occurred in the past do not continue. There is more, of course, that can be done. That is on the Government's legislative program, and the Senate will again have an opportunity to decide whether it is going to ensure effectively that taxation can no longer be avoided and evaded or whether it is going to allow the present and long-standing unsatisfactory situation to continue.