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Tuesday, 2 October 1984
Page: 1399

Mr McGAURAN(10.42) —We have heard a great deal in the past 18 months since this Government came to office, particularly in the last few days, about honesty in politics, and we have been subjected to the continual protestations of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) that he is a man of unimpeachable integrity and honesty whose word is his bond. But nowhere is this misrepresentation of the Prime Minister's capacity for honesty more highlighted than in the field of taxation. There are three areas in which this Prime Minister has misrepresented the truth to the Australian people. First and foremost are the broken promises of immediate tax cuts made prior to the last election and the fact that personal income tax cuts were allowed only in the 1984 Budget and proved to be totally illusory when seen against increased government charges and taxation.

Secondly, the Prime Minister will not come clean, will not be honest, as to this Government's intention with regard to a capital gains tax. Does he intend to impose a capital gains tax? Every piece of evidence available to us suggests that a capital gains tax will certainly be introduced, but not before the next election. Thirdly, the Prime Minister stands condemned for a lack of honesty in his continual misrepresentation of the Opposition's stand on tax avoiders and retrospective legislation. He knows, as every member of the Government knows, that the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), the former Treasurer, did more than any other Treasurer in the history of this nation could possibly have done to catch and prevent tax evaders. Yet time and again in this chamber we have seen the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Keating) harangue the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and, quite simply, present a barrage of misrepresentations and inaccuracies to the people of Australia. For that the Prime Minister stands condemned. (Quorum formed) Prior to the quorum being called I was discussing the failure of the Government to be completely honest with the Australian people about the matter of taxation. It is extremely ironical that the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins), who has now entered the chamber, stands condemned as the most dishonest pretender in this Parliament. I refer to a person who did not hesitate for a moment to destroy or to attempt to destroy the good name and reputation of a great many innocent people.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Keogh) —The honourable member for Gippsland knows that it is out of order to reflect on any honourable member. He will withdraw the reflection on the Minister for Finance.

Mr Howard —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Insofar as your request relates to the expression 'dishonest' it is consistent with my understanding of the procedures of the House. But insofar as it extends to the general allegations of double standards it is not consistent.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The honourable member for Gippsland will withdraw the remark he made reflecting on the honesty of the Minister for Finance.

Mr Howard —Which remark?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —He well knows the remark I mean.

Mr McGAURAN —It is somewhat amusing, Mr Deputy Speaker-


Mr McGAURAN —I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I have told the honourable member for Gippsland to withdraw the remark. He will withdraw the remark or resume his seat.

Mr McGAURAN —I have withdrawn. Allow me to say that the Minister for Finance has displayed a lack of honesty to the chamber over a period and as a result it is abundantly clear that he stands condemned as a person who is prepared to mislead this chamber as to his commitment to the tax avoidance industry. He is a person who sought to avoid paying his taxation and yet in an unprecedented display of double standards set out deliberately to wreck the reputation and good name of a great many people, and any member of the Government who condones that behaviour stands condemned with the Minister for Finance.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Gippsland will resume his seat. The honourable member for Gippsland has again suggested to the chamber that the Minister for Finance was misleading the chamber, and that is unparliamentary. I suggest to the honourable member for Gippsland that he confine his remarks to the Bills.

Mr Howard —Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your guidance on a point of procedure. I understand that to be in accordance with the Standing Orders. I ask you, Sir, whether by that request to the honourable member for Gippsland you are asserting that it is contrary to the Standing Orders of this House for an honourable member to allege that another honourable member has misled the House.

Mr Uren —Mr Speaker, further to the point of order, the term used was 'lack of honesty'.

Mr Howard —That was earlier.

Mr Uren —It was not. It was after Mr Deputy Speaker asked the honourable member for Gippsland to withdraw. He used the words 'lack of honesty'. It seems to me that that is a direct reflection on the Minister. Therefore I believe that your ruling should be upheld, Mr Deputy Speaker, and that the honourable member should withdraw and apologise.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I have asked the honourable member for Gippsland to withdraw the remark that I ruled was a reflection on the Minister for Finance, that is, that he was misleading the chamber. The honourable member had earlier referred to the dishonesty of the Minister for Finance. I asked him to withdraw that remark, which he did. He went on then to reflect further on the Minister for Finance with the claim that the Minister has misled the chamber. I rule that that was unparliamentary and ask that it be withdrawn. The honourable member for Gippsland will withdraw that remark.

Mr McGAURAN —That is withdrawn, Mr Deputy Speaker. There is no more important issue in this country than the reform and restructuring of our taxation system, but the contribution of the Minister for Finance holds that in absolute ridicule . If he is to be involved in a direct way with the very type of taxation avoidance activity for which he so roundly and so unjustly condemned innocent members of the public, then by his own words and standards he stands condemned by this chamber and by a great many Australians. It is of no assistance at all to the ongoing taxation debate in this country for the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance continually to accuse the Opposition of supporting the tax avoidance industry when one of their colleagues is certainly part of that attempt to minimise or avoid taxation. The honourable member for Bennelong, the former Treasurer, stands proudly on his record as having done everything to smash and destroy the tax avoidance industry. There is no greater testimony to that than the words of the Minister for Finance himself when last year he declared to a meeting of accountants in Sydney that the tax avoidance industry in this country was dead. For that reason any member of the Government who accuses the Opposition of assisting or sheltering tax avoiders or of not having done enough in the past is playing with the truth and completely an utterly misrepresenting the situation.

The Prime Minister has not only failed to implement the taxation cuts as promised at the last election and to come clean on the matter of a capital gains or wealth tax or gift and death duties tax, but he has also introduced an assets tax. We know, of course, that it is termed an assets test, but it amounts to nothing more and nothing less than an assets tax. It is a capital gains tax under a different cloak.

Mr Rocher —And it is retrospective too.

Mr McGAURAN —As my colleague has advised the House, it is also a retrospective tax and amounts in a different form to a gift duties tax. It is a capital gains tax because it takes no account of to what extent a holding or a capital investment generates income. Thus, of course, we have a situation in which a great many rural producers have over a lifetime invested a great deal of capital and a lifetime of hard work.

Mr Gear —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I appreciate that you give a fair bit of leeway in these discussions but certainly the honourable member for Gippsland is straying way away from the Bills. I ask you to draw his attention to that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Keogh) —I uphold the point of order. I was about to suggest to the honourable member for Gippsland that he return to the subject matter of the Bills before the chamber. I now do so.

Mr McGAURAN —I well understand the sensitivity of Government members on this matter, particularly the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham) who has throughout his electorate and also in this chamber sought to reassure the rural producers of the country electorate of McMillan that they have nothing to fear from an assets test or an assets tax.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Gippsland I fear is defying the Chair. I told him to return to the Bills. He will return to the Bills. The honourable member for Gippsland is a fairly new member, but he has been here long enough to know that when he is told to return to the subject matter of the Bills he should do so. He will now return to the subject matter of the Bills.

Mr Cadman —I rise on a point of order. I refer you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to standing order 81 (b) which deals with debates regarding appropriation and supply. I would have regarded a tax Bill as a Supply Bill in the proper sense of it and therefore the honourable member has a free range of areas that he can debate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr McGAURAN —My colleagues and I have a number of concerns about the legislation before the House, not least being the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill which automatically makes officers of companies guilty of tax offences committed by companies unless they can prove-I stress that the onus is upon those officers- that they did not participate in the offence. This has a very clear effect of shifting the onus of proof away from the Crown or prosecution to a defendant. In my view, one which is shared by such eminent legal counsel as the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) who is at the table, that is a matter of severe concern and creates a precedent which will be proved very difficult to live with .

Mr Braithwaite —They will be guilty until proven innocent.

Mr McGAURAN —As the honourable member for Dawson interjected, this legislation will have the effect of declaring someone guilty until proven innocent whereas the most basic tenet of our common law system is that one is innocent until proven guilty and that the burden of proof and the standard of proof lies upon the prosecutor. For that reason, that legislation is of concern. That concern has been expressed by the Australian Law Council and by a great many lawyers who have made representations to members of parliament. To date the Government and every member of the Government who has spoken have failed to address satisfactorily that objection of the Opposition. I ask the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) in his summing up remarks to satisfy the Opposition that that is not the case. It is a very dangerous path to go down whereby somebody charged with an offence has the duty and the liability of proving his innocence. For that reason, together with the reasons outlined by a number of members of the Opposition, I have a number of concerns about this legislation.

The legislation is part of the Government's stop-gap or band-aid measure approach to taxation. One of the failures of the last Budget was that there was no comprehensive or cohesive restructuring of, or even an attempt to restructure and reform, the taxation system, reform which is so desperately needed in this country. It is desperately needed if we are to attain the objective which I believe is shared by all honourable members-employment. It is only by stimulation and assistance to the private sector by deregulation and the lowering of taxation that we will achieve the necessary economic growth to achieve a higher rate of employment.