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Wednesday, 14 December 1983
Page: 3775

Senator HARRADINE(4.48) — Mr Chairman, Senator Walsh cannot help himself.

Senator Cook —He has got a good case.

Senator HARRADINE —He has no case whatsoever. When the proposition was made last year in respect of section 3 (12) of the Taxation (Unpaid Company Tax) Assessment Act, I did vote for it. The reason I voted against it this time is simply that the omission of section 3 (12) has a retrospective effect in that taxpayers who would be entitled to relief under that sub-section and who have requested that it be applied by the Commissioner of Taxation will now have that right removed and face recoupment tax liability. The reason that I say that Senator Walsh cannot help himself, concerns the question of tax evaders. He said that I have voted for tax evaders. That shows that he does not understand the Bill that is before the chamber, because the Bill before the chamber, by definition, when it is dealing with vendor-shareholders does not deal with tax evaders. Tax evaders are those who have breached the law. We are not talking about people in this legislation who have breached the law. Senator Walsh owes an apology to this chamber for that reflection.

If he continues to make those comments, which are not only ignorant but inane, I will remind him of what he said in a debate on 4 May 1982. It will be recalled that at that time Senator Walsh, as the Opposition spokesman on treasury matters in this place, moved an amendment which was designed, according to him, to overcome a loophole, to use his words, in the Income Tax Assessment Act. On page 1957 of Hansard he stated:

. . . a loophole under which tax on short term profits from the purchase and sale of shares may be avoided if the company which nominally purchased the shares is sold rather than the shares being sold directly.

Presumably that was a legitimate activity at that time. Senator Walsh was at pains to point out:

The Opposition's amendments, if accepted, will ensure that the Bell group and the Bond Corporation pay the tax which they ought to have paid on those transactions.

When the Australian Democrats and I, on a matter of principle-I do not know about the Democrats, but I do not know Mr Bond from a bar of soap-voted against that amendment, we were pilloried in this place by Senator Walsh as being supporters of tax evaders and tax avoiders. He quite unjustly called Mr Bond a tax evader and he called us, when we voted against it, friends of tax dodgers. Who in Australia was the greatest friend of Mr Bond when he won the America's Cup? Who calls him 'my mate Bondie'? Who turned up at the reception at the Lodge which was put on by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke)? None other than the Minister for Finance, Mr Dawkins. The whole lot of them are friends of tax dodgers.

I believe that Senator Walsh ought, firstly, to get his facts right and, secondly, desist from the nonsense with which he is carrying on, because all of this is absolute nonsense. The Government is not fair dinkum about these so- called bottom of the harbour proposals-this is not a bottom of the harbour proposal-and it is not fair dinkum about the so-called unpaid company tax proposals. Were it fair dinkum about them, it would have brought back the first Bill. But it did not.

Senator Cook —Would you vote for it?

Senator HARRADINE —Does the Government want me to move an amendment to amend this Bill in precisely the same terms as the first Bill? If it wants me to do so , I will test it out and I will do it, because I know several members of the Cabinet who would run a mile rather than vote for the first Bill. Furthermore, I say to Senator Cook, who interjected, that I know that none of the unions with which I am associated would be caught by this legislation. But I wonder whether he is sure about all of the unions. He had better start checking up on that.

Senator Cook —I am absolutely certain, Senator, about what is the policy of the ACTU and the union movement, and that is to wipe out tax avoidance and evasion.

Senator HARRADINE —I am talking about commercial operations. I asked that question because I do not regard those people who have operated within the law as being tax evaders. They are not by definition tax evaders. If the Government were fair dinkum about all of these things, it would have brought back the first piece of legislation; it did not. It brought back the Mark II Bill. The second reading speech of that Bill referred to the need that the Government saw to amend the Bill to take into account the matters that had been raised in this chamber. History will show-and any members of the Press or others who take an objective look at the legislation will know-that the Government did not do that.

One aspect, of course, as an example, is that repeatedly the Government was warned of the roll over effect. Ongoing business enterprises would be affected, and if it wished to put back into the barrel the so-called avoided tax, it could do so by certain deeming provisions. None of that was picked up, but it was a very major problem. The Government was reminded about that by me on the last occasion that this measure was introduced. Now we have the Mark III Bill, which is totally different again. That shows that the Government is not fair dinkum about this measure, because the wiser heads in the Government know precisely what the effects will be. Also, the more mature persons in the Government realised that their attempt in this area was contrary to the principles of certainty before the law and, indeed, contrary to the principles of fairness. Mr Chairman, I do hope that that is the end of these stupid remarks that flow from Senator Walsh, but I am afraid that is a forlorn hope. I suppose we are now about to hear further from him.