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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3352

Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (21:40): I rise before the House to speak about trust. But I am not talking about how the Labor, Green and Independent government has betrayed the trust of the Australian people. I am speaking about a trust which has been established by the federal member for Lyne. Over the past week there have been numerous media reports questioning the status of the mid-North Coast youth trust. The current member for Lyne established this trust with great fanfare in 2003 as the state member for Port Macquarie. He was made a trustee of the trust. Other trustees included his wife plus local solicitor Brett Gilbert. I understand both the member for Lyne's wife and Mr Gilbert are no longer trustees. Once launched, advertisements for the trust appeared in newspapers and newsletters were distributed to households. In these advertisements, the current member for Lyne claimed the trust was established to 'fight the very generous politicians' superannuation scheme' and to help youth in the area.

Ms King: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A matter is being raised in the adjournment impugning another member of parliament and I ask you to ask the member to desist in that.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The honourable member has not as yet to my knowledge reflected on the honourable member for Lyne. He is aware of the standing orders and I am sure will be very cautious to not reflect on the member.

Mr HARTSUYKER: Indeed, the member for Lyne spruiked that he would commit $20,000 per year once he was entitled to superannuation benefits. But there are now legitimate questions which need to answered. They relate to the status of the trust and its legal and financial compliance obligations. According to radio 2GB last Wednesday morning, one of the former trustees, Brett Gilbert, confirmed that he set up the trust and was a trustee after it was established. However, Mr Gilbert told the Ray Hadley show that the trust was no longer active and he has had no involvement in the trust for five years. Mr Gilbert was also quoted as saying that he believed the trust received a small amount of funds, but does not know what happened to that money. As a result, the media have attempted to ask questions but the member for Lyne has to this date refused to respond. What does he have to hide?

This issue is as much about the member for Lyne being open and honest with his constituents as it is about transparency over the administration and status of the trust. I draw the attention of the House to the responsibility a trustee has to lodge a tax return under Australian legislation.

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Cowper is going extremely close to reflecting on the member for Lyne. I would caution him. I will not hesitate to sit him down without raising the matter again if in my view he transgresses.

Mr HARTSUYKER: The question remains: have tax returns for the trust been issued for the period 2002-03 to the current date? There are also issues with regard to tax file number withholding requirements for the trust. These measures require a trustee to disclose to the Australian Taxation Office the tax file number of the relevant beneficiary. If they do not, the trust is obliged to pay an amount of tax to the Australian Taxation Office.

I did a quick search of the ABN register earlier today and was amazed I could not find an ABN for this trust. On this basis, it would appear reasonable to assume that it does not have an ABN. According to advice from the ATO, an organisation must have an ABN if it is seeking endorsement as one or more of the following: a tax concession charity or income tax exempt fund, or a deductible gift recipient. If you were serious about maximising the return to your community, one would expect you would seek to avail the trust of every possible tax concession.

There is also a range of other questions which need to be answered. What is the current status of the trust? Who are the beneficiaries? How do you donate to the trust? Who has received benefits from the trust? What is the process by which you can apply to become a beneficiary of the trust? What are the sources of income for the trust? Have all legal requirements been complied with? How is the trustee ensuring that the assets of the trust are being effectively managed for the benefit of the beneficiaries? Has the trust been audited by an independent, qualified auditor? Why does the trust not have a registered ABN? Is there an operating bank account and, if so, where is the account maintained and who are the signatories?

I hereby call on the member for Lyne to end the uncertainty, clear the air and deliver the transparency he so often tries to make a badge of honour.