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Thursday, 23 August 2001
Page: 30153


Mr CREAN (3:08 PM) —My question is again to the Treasurer. Do you deny having any knowledge of a tax arrangement in which the Queensland division of the Liberal Party have obtained GST input credits without paying the GST?


Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —As I said in the answer to my first question, if I attend the Groom FEC dinner—


Mr Crean —Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order: the question is not specifically about Groom. It is about any arrangement involving the Queensland division of the Liberal Party and whether he had any knowledge of that.


Mr ACTING SPEAKER —The member for Hotham will resume his seat. The question started off specifically about tax arrangements and the Treasurer is in order; he is answering the question.


Mr COSTELLO —As I said, if I attend a dinner of the Groom FEC, or indeed any meeting of the Queensland Liberal Party or any other Liberal Party—or whether I attend a meeting of the Rotary Club or whether I attend an Olympic dinner—and it is my responsibility to give a speech, I will turn up and I will give the speech. It is the responsibility of the person who is selling the goods and the services to comply with their taxation obligations. I do not ask them what their taxation obligations are. I do not advise them on their taxation obligations. If they seek my advice, my advice to them is to comply with their taxation obligations. I would say to the Groom FEC or the Queensland Liberal Party—or, indeed, to the Hotham ALP if they want to invite me out to give a speech— that they should comply with their obligations and that they should make full disclosure in relation to all of their obligations to the Australian Taxation Office. After making full disclosure of all of their obligations to the Australian Taxation Office, they should pay any liability that they have. That is my view and that is what I advise them.

As I understand it—and I am having this checked during question time—the Australian Taxation Office has done an audit on the Queensland Liberal Party in relation to its obligations. I will find out from the commissioner whether or not the audit has uncovered any material that shows that obligations have not been adhered to. If it has, our advice to the Queensland division of the Liberal Party is that they should comply with their obligations, just like anybody else. The Australian Taxation Office would be instructed if it sought advice, which it probably would not, from the government that the law should be enforced in relation to the Queensland Liberal Party, just as it should be enforced in relation to the Victorian Labor Party. My recollection is that the Victorian Labor Party at one point was caught not complying with its obligations in relation to a fundraising dinner.

Opposition members interjecting—


Mr COSTELLO —That is my certain recollection. I believe that, when we were approached in relation to the Victorian Labor Party not complying with its obligation, our position was the same: the Victorian Labor Party should comply with its obligation. It should go down to the Australian Taxation Office, it should make a clean breast of its position and it should pay its liability. The attitude we take in relation to the Victorian Labor Party is precisely the attitude we take in relation to the Queensland Liberal Party: if there is anybody in Queensland who has not complied with their obligation they should go down to the Australian Taxation Office, they should make complete disclosure and they should pay their obligation. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has evidence that they have not done that, I am more than happy to pass it across to the tax commissioner, who is responsible for enforcing the law, and I am more than happy to ensure that the law is enforced.