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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1920

Mr HOWARD —I address a question to the Treasurer which is supplementary to the question I just asked him. I preface my question by acknowledging fully that the honourable gentleman is correct in saying that the exercise of discretion in these matters does rest with the Commissioner of Taxation. He is quite entitled to rely upon that formal reply in answering my question. Would not the honourable gentleman agree that it is desirable not only that there be in reality a consistency of treatment between different taxpayers but also that there be the appearance of a consistent treatment between taxpayers in the same interest? Bearing in mind that the honourable gentleman's colleague's taxation position was clarified within 24 hours of application to the Deputy Commissioner 's office, whereas other taxpayers in similar positions have had longer periods to wait, can the honourable gentleman, therefore, take to the Commissioner of Taxation the substance of my earlier question and obtain an assurance from the Commissioner of Taxation that there will be complete consistency of treatment?

Mr KEATING —This is a very snide question and one to which I object because the import of the question, what underlies the question, is that in some way the Taxation Commissioner treats people differentially. That was the implication of the honourable member and that was the only import of the interjections.

Mr Peacock —Fair treatment for all is what we want.

Mr KEATING —Fair treatment for all implies that in some way the Commissioner has given fair treatment to some shareholders and not to others.

Mr Peacock —We want to be assured that that is not the case.

Mr KEATING —Of course it is not the case. The honourable member should not be foolish enough to seek the assurance. In respect of the notice which was given to my colleague the Minister for Finance by the Deputy Commissioner in Western Australia, the Minister for Finance wrote to me about that matter. I referred his letter to the Taxation Commissioner and in writing back to my colleague I said:

. . . this is not a matter over which I have Ministerial or other authority, but in view of the urgency of your request, I have immediately referred your letter to the Commissioner of Taxation . . .

The Commissioner is in a position to form his own view about that. Given the fact that Mr Reid was treated by the previous Government in just the same way last year with not simply an assessment in respect of a matter before the Taxation Office but also, indeed, an examination of the affairs of the companies with which Mr Reid was associated-a much more lengthy process-and given the expedition of that procedure, I would be at a loss to understand the point of the Deputy Leader's question. So, as I said earlier, it is a matter for the Taxation Commissioner. This question attacks the integrity of the Taxation Commissioner-particularly the interjection by the Leader of the Opposition which is, of course, uncalled for and unfair. I will not respond any more other than to draw upon the long record of the Taxation Commissioner in these matters.