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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 1067

Mr TUCKEY(1.29 a.m.) —In his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr Keating) referred to measures to counter tax avoidance and evasion. He said:

This Government will remain unrelenting in its efforts to counter tax avoidance and evasion.

A little later he said:

The Budget also provides for a significant increase in the compliance staff of the Taxation Office in order to increase the proportion of tax returns subject to audits.

Page 93 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1984-85, under Division 678 dealing with the Australian Taxation Office, shows that expenditure for 1983-84 was $282 ,350,691 and that the estimate for this year's expenditure is $315,400,000-a jump of $33m. This morning, I heard the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) say that that increase would result in 400-he mentioned also another figure of more than 300- people to check tax avoidance and tax evasion. The figure could be as high as 700. It was surprising to note the Prime Minister's zeal, considering his recent Boulevard foray into the cash economy when he lost 16 per cent of his salary. He may be asked to explain what he was doing with that large amount of cash. Or is it reasonable to assume that Bill Waterhouse had a bad day and was paying out in American dollars and assorted travellers cheques.

The new staff will investigate both old and new problems. I may have time to phone one of the new operatives and offer some of the information I have about the tax activities of the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins). Better still, one of those operatives might find time to write out a certificate to say that the Minister is clean.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor might like to indicate to which item he is referring.

Mr TUCKEY —I went to great lengths at the beginning of my speech to tell you what I was talking about, Mr Deputy Chairman. I am talking about the expenditure on providing addition people to look into the tax business and tax avoidance and evasion.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —I remind the honourable member for O'Connor that he needs to be relevant.

Mr TUCKEY —I do not know how much more relevant I should be. I am the first speaker tonight to have given you a direct reference, Mr Deputy Chairman. I have concluded my remarks about the Minister for Finance. No doubt, particular inspectors will have the job of resolving the bottom of the harbour tax avoidance problems.

I chose to deliver a speech earlier today pointing out some of the difficulties that might arise in that area. It was most unfortunate that the Government got the story a little wrong. The Government was so busy blocking me that only the bad part of the story got out. Of course, that story did not tell all, as I was prepared to do. My speech and the information provided afterwards to journalists made that clear. The Premier of Western Australia was a one time director of a company known as Knowles Investments Pty Ltd, which went to the bottom of the harbour. The Premier of Western Australia said that that was not his fault, but we have heard that story thousands of time before. I am not saying that he is right or wrong this time. I am saying only that everybody said: 'The people to whom I sold the shares were clean. I did not believe that they might dump them.' .

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! I have already suggested once that the honourable member for O'Connor be relevant to the estimates that are being considered by the Committee.

Mr TUCKEY —Mr Deputy Chairman, I have no choice in this matter but to ask you--

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN — I shall not suggest--

Mr TUCKEY —to call the Speaker to get this matter resolved.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member will be silent while he is being spoken to about this matter. If I must once again draw his attention to the fact that he is not speaking to the subject before the Committee, and especially if he continues to speak while I am speaking to him, the honourable member will not be permitted to speak any longer.

Mr TUCKEY —Mr Deputy Chairman, I will move dissent from your ruling. I shall give you a motion to that effect.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! I have not made a ruling for the honourable member to dissent from at this stage.

Mr TUCKEY —Well, I will just continue on then.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —The honourable member may continue if he wishes.

Mr TUCKEY —Consequently, if the investigators had looked at the position at that stage of the game, they would have found that there was no doubt about the fact- this was not denied by the Premier of Western Australia-that that person was the proprietor of the company. These investigators who are about to be appointed would also know very well that the company went to the bottom of the harbour. The Premier in his denial of this-I accept many parts of his denial-went so far as to give an explanation about the company. He said:

I set up the company shortly after my pre-selection for Parliament with the intention of transferring to it business interests I had, but I subsequently decided not to proceed with this and instructed my accountant accordingly.

If he decided not to proceed, he spent a lot of money because there are company records which show that he established this company. The only thing he did not spend much money on were shares. He spent only $5 on them. I do not know what the company cost him. The interesting thing that these investigators should note , having discovered that in 1973 the Premier of Western Australia had substantial business interests, is that in the West Australian of 25 November 1983-10 years after the Premier as a member of the Opposition began receiving a parliamentary salary-there was an article under the headline 'Burke is first to divulge his interests'. That is funny, because in this Parliament we were going to hear a lot about divulging interests, but the Government has gone very quiet on that. The article states:

They are:

Two bank accounts-one with an overdraft of $17,000, the other with $1,000-a house mortgaged for $70,000, one wife, five children and another on the way.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Keogh) —Order! I inform the honourable member for O' Connor that I am finding it a little difficult to relate his remarks to the matter before the Committee. It might assist me if he can explain how his remarks relate to the question which is being considered by the Committee.

Mr TUCKEY —Mr Keogh, I am trying to point out that we now have an additional 700 tax investigators and I could probably save some of their time--

Mr Young —Could you tell us how Robert Askin left $4m?

Mr TUCKEY —I have no brief for Robert Askin. The point I want to make is that some of these investigators who have been appointed should approach the Premier of Western Australia and ask him what he has done with all those business interests, because he has not got them now. Did he sell them at a profit? Did he declare tax on them, or did he ever have them? The other thing that the tax investigators might be interested in is whether Knowles Investments was a convenient shelf company that Mr Brian Burke put his name to for one of the tax avoidance industry people who were just coming out of the woodwork in 1973, as Mr Costigan said. Was he helping those people by putting his name to shelf straw companies that later on could be used in the manner in which this one seemed to have been? He formed a company and as soon as he wanted to sell it he had no difficulty in doing so.

I wonder whether he ever laid hands on it. If he had some business interests to transfer he had better tell someone. Perhaps he misled members of the Western Australian Parliament in his declaration of interests when he said he had no business interests. He might tell us how he disposed of them or lost them within the next 10 years, because we all know that had he turned them into cash he would still have that cash. I think that these investigators that the Government has employed should start on a couple of those matters.

Mr Young —We haven't enough; they are too busy on the Liberal Party in Western Australia.

Mr TUCKEY —Are they? The Special Minister of State knows that not to be the truth. I suggest that he should not get too wrapped up in that. I thought this was a good time to remind him and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) that every time they get on to this issue they get their fingers crushed, and they will get them crushed again.