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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21738

Mr LATHAM (2:55 PM) —My question is again to the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer to his earlier answer; in particular, to his claim that the Australian National Audit Office has confirmed a GST compliance dividend—extra revenue collected from the black economy—a claim the Treasurer has repeatedly made in the House: on 12 March and 12 December 2002, and again on 19 August this year. Treasurer, isn't this claim false? In fact, the Audit Office, in this report, concluded:

It is too early to measure the outcomes of tax reform on the cash economy.

It also said, `there is no independently verifiable method for determining the accuracy' of the tax office estimates. Will the Treasurer now fulfil his obligations under the ministerial code of conduct to correct the parliamentary record and apologise for misleading the House?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —Despite valiant efforts to try and besmirch the reputation of the tax commissioner, the tax commissioner has consistently found a compliance dividend—and I tabled a media release on 19 August 2003—of $3.5 billion over three years of additional tax estimated to be raised as a result of the new tax system. In addition to that, I have the Cash Economy Task Force report media release No. 3 of 1991.

Dr Emerson —1991?

Mr COSTELLO —Yes, 03/91. No. 91 of 2003.

Dr Emerson —You just said 1991.

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin is warned!

Mr COSTELLO —I will say it again. I have the cash Economy Task Force report media release 03/91—that is, No. 91 of 2003. It says:

A Cash Economy Task Force report has found the new tax system is impacting significantly on the cash economy, producing a more robust tax system that is harder to evade ...

The report states:

`The design features of the reformed tax system are working together to produce a more robust tax system that is harder to evade ...'

The report lists the following indicators of the positive impact of the new tax system:

More that $135 million has been withheld from businesses that did not quote a valid Australian Business Number—

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The point of order goes to relevance. The question was about the Audit Office report—

The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa will resume his seat. The Treasurer's answer is entirely relevant.

Mr COSTELLO —The Cash Economy Task Force report media release of 23 September 2001 is directly on this point. I will continue. The report goes on:

More businesses than expected have registered for an ABN, with tens of thousands of businesses previously outside the tax system now drawn into the tax net. The Tax Office has already raised about $50 million in backdated taxes.

At the third dot point, it says:

Revenue outcomes are consistent with the expected compliance dividend from the new tax system to June 2003 of $2.6 billion being achieved.

At the fourth dot point—this is September 2003—

Honourable members interjecting

Mr COSTELLO —No, again I say 2003.

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer will ignore the interjections.

Mr COSTELLO —It is media release No. 91 of 2003. The Cash Economy Task Force report media release, at the third dot point, says:

Revenue outcomes are consistent with the expected compliance dividend from the new tax system to June 2003 of $2.6 billion being achieved.

The fourth dot point states:

A survey of small business and public practice Certified Practising Accountants found 81 per cent of CPAs considered their clients' bookkeeping procedures had improved under the new tax system and 68 per cent saw improvement in invoicing procedures.

This is the Cash Economy Task Force report, as recently as 23 June. The task force includes—

Mr Latham —The tax office.

Mr COSTELLO —Not just the Australian Taxation Office. It includes academics, small business operators, tax practitioners, representatives from the building and construction and retailing industries, microbusinesses and home based businesses, ACOSS, as well as senior staff from the tax office, Centrelink, AUSTRAC and the states and territories. The tax commissioner has reported it—the Cash Economy Task Force has reported it—and I would say that the collections endorse it. Notwithstanding all of Labor's claims that the GST would fail or would not be effective, the evidence is in: Australia's economy is as strong as it has been in recent years. If you wanted any greater endorsement of the new taxation system, the fact is that, after opposing it hook line and sinker, the Labor Party now supports it.