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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1641

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Hume is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours.

The honourable member for Hume thereupon withdrew from the chamber.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I call the Minister for Finance.

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. I asked earlier that the Standing Orders be observed as far as behaviour is concerned. My request was not responded to. For the first time as Speaker, I have, unfortunately, had to name an honourable member. I ask the House to remain silent. I call the Minister for Finance.

Mr DAWKINS —I shall complete the answer to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. The Opposition seems to be in some confusion about what it is really on about. It seems to be suggesting what was put forward in the words of the honourable member for O'Connor yesterday, who asked whether I was involved in any way with bottom of the harbour tax transactions. I have already indicated that a small parcel of shares was sold on 1 January 1977.

Mr Porter —What day was that?

Mr DAWKINS —It was 1 January 1977. The first of the bottom of the harbour activities of the Metro Industries Ltd group of companies took place a few days before that, on 10 December 1976. I have already indicated that we had the absolute genius of picking the lowest point in the market at which, in fact, to sell those shares. So, the question really revolves around whether we were involved in bottom of the harbour transactions. The evidence for this is apparently the fact that our former company is on a list, which is in the process of being determined by the Commissioner of Taxation, of those who held shares on 31 December 1976. I should indicate to the House that the evidence on which the Opposition is flying this particular kite is very flimsy indeed. Perhaps I can read from the advice of the Taxation Commissioner--

Mr Howard —No, it is the standards you adopted last year that are relevant to this and your absolute refusal to apply them to yourself. That is the issue.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have allowed considerable tolerance to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I ask him to remain silent.

Mr DAWKINS —I am not sure whether members of the Opposition want the answer. They may not like it, but they are going to get it. The Taxation Commissioner advised in the following terms:

Any approach from the Taxation Office to those who were owners of Metro Industries at the relevant time would be in the form of recoupment tax assessments made after consideration had, on the basis of available information, been given to the law and to the relieving provisions that are contained in it. In particular, there would be a question whether, on the ground that the particular person enjoyed no benefit at all from the evasion, the discretionary power under sub-section 6 (18) to provide complete relief from the recoupment tax should be exercised.

The Taxation Commissioner is saying that if there were no benefit the provisions of the law provide that there would be complete relief. The fact is that no assessments have been issued, as I have indicated, and indeed an assessment in the end may not be issued in relation to this company.

What the Opposition really has to ponder for a moment is that, as I am advised, there are something like 300 computer pages which contain the names of people who held shares in Metro Industries Ltd at the time. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Western Australians were involved. Does that mean that members of the Opposition are saying that everyone on that list was involved in bottom of the harbour tax evasion? If they are saying that every one of the people on that list was involved in bottom of the harbour tax evasion, I ask them to ponder whether any of them, or any of the people associated with the Liberal Party of Australia, were in fact on that list.

On the other hand, seeing that we are in the business of apologies in a big way these days, it may be that there is no liability in relation to the company to which they refer and in which I was involved. In the event that there is no liability, I expect that an apology will be forthcoming from the Opposition.