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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21737

Mr LATHAM (2:49 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer recall repeatedly telling the House, most recently on 19 August, that the tax office has achieved a compliance dividend from the introduction of the GST and a crackdown on the black economy? Why then has the tax office told the Australian newspaper, as reported today:

... there are no documents indicating the impact (the) GST has had on cutting the size of the black economy.'

Why has the Treasurer made false claims about the impact of the GST on the black economy, and will he now correct the record and apologise to the House?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —As has been frequently acknowledged, the introduction of the GST has given the tax office additional mechanisms with which to track income tax avoidance. That is because under the GST system every business has to have an Australian business number and both suppliers and sellers have to report in order to get input tax credits. I would have thought that now that the Labor Party support the GST—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer has the call.

Mr COSTELLO —they would not be continuing their campaign. I paused a moment then just to clarify what the proposition was. The tax office has now indicated that revenue outcomes consistent with the estimated additional income tax collection of $2.6 billion have come about. The Australian National Audit Office said in a recent report:

The ATO strategy to address the cash economy is consistent with those of comparable countries. It offers a wide-ranging approach in dealing with the cash economy.

In fact, the collections themselves would show that there has been enormous success, I would have thought, in picking up additional revenue—

Mr Tanner —Highest taxing government ever.

Mr COSTELLO —On cue, they come in. When you do pick up the black economy and collect tax, the Labor Party complains that too much tax is being collected, as the member for Melbourne just did. As the tax office and the ANAO have indicated, the GST system, the Australian business number and the cross-matching have given additional revenue. If the Labor Party believes that the ABN or the GST system should be rolled back, we would be willing to hear it.