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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21740

Mr LATHAM (3:05 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Why has the Treasurer failed to correct the record concerning his misrepresentation of the Audit Office and its report on the GST compliance dividend from the black economy? Has the Treasurer seen this letter from the Audit Office, dated 4 September 2003, which states:

Our report was tabled in March 2002. At that time, it was too early to measure the outcomes of tax reform on the cash economy. Therefore, at the time of the audit, we were not in a position to comment on whether the compliance dividend had been met or even partially met.

Given that the Audit Office's view could not be clearer—that it has not confirmed a compliance dividend from the black economy—will the Treasurer now correct the parliamentary record and apologise for repeatedly misleading the House—on 12 March and 12 December last year, 19 August this year and again earlier in question time today?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I now have the Hansard record of 19 August 2003. The Hansard record will show that this is what I said:

The tax commissioner—and I table this media release—says that the ANAO has found a:

... compliance dividend of $3.5 billion over three years of additional tax estimated to be raised as a result of the New Tax System ...

It is tabled. The transcript is tabled on 19 August 2003. But there was a misrepresentation that day, and getting the Hansard reminded me of it.

Government member—It is always instructive.

Mr COSTELLO —It is always instructive to get the Hansard of the day. That was the day when the member for Werriwa made a claim about the black economy. He claimed that a figure was given by the tax commissioner that the black economy is 15 per cent. I have just been reminded that the reason why I tabled the transcript that day was that the transcript came out with the tax commissioner on The World Today saying this—seeing as we are in the business of misrepresentation—

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. It is a serious matter when a minister misleads the House. The Treasurer has been asked a question about the Audit Office and his misrepresentation of their report from March 2002. The question is not about any other matter; it is about his misrepresentation, his misleading of the House, and he should be brought back to the question.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the member for Werriwa knows full well that he cannot make a statement that a minister is misleading the House other than by a substantive motion, and he should simply be ruled out of order.

The SPEAKER —The chair is well aware of the fact—and I suspect so is the member for Werriwa and all members of the House—that any suggestion of deliberately misleading the House would be out of order. I did not hear the member for Werriwa make that comment, and I allowed the Treasurer to continue his response because he was dealing with the matter of the figures from the Audit Office and he was relevant.

Mr COSTELLO —In fact, I was asked about what I said in the House on 19 August, and I tabled the transcript and I quoted the tax commissioner. That transcript will be in the records of the House somewhere. Since we are on the question of misrepresentation and misleading the House, it has brought back to my memory why I actually tabled the transcript of the tax commissioner that day—that is, the tax commissioner had to go on The World Today.In the transcript which I tabled, he said:

... it has been claimed by Mr Latham that I have confirmed a figure of the black economy of 15 per cent of GDP. I've done no such thing.

People who are interested in misleading and misrepresentation in this House should not be throwing their stones in glass houses. That is why that came up on 19 August: the tax commissioner had to go out on the airwaves that day because he had been misrepresented and the House had been subsequently misled. I tabled his transcript. His transcript said that the ANAO had found a compliance dividend of $3.5 billion over three years of additional tax estimated to be raised as a result of the new tax system. I also had a lot to say about cracking down on the black economy in the taxi industry, but I will leave that aside for present purposes.

Mr Latham —I seek leave to table the letter from the Audit Office dated 4 September 2003, rebutting and contradicting the claim of the Treasurer about their report.

Leave granted.