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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1320

Senator JONES —Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the very strong rumours and reports in political circles that the convicted tax cheat, Brian James Maher, through either his own name or that of a nominee, made at least one sizeable donation to the National Party's secretive Bjelke-Petersen Foundation? Does the Minister agree that, if these reports are true, it is desirable that the Commissioner of Taxation recoup such moneys together with other funds and assets earned by Maher through tax evasion? In such circumstances will the Minister recommend to National Party management officials that the Taxation Commissioner and/or the National Crime Authority-preferably both-be invited to investigate the Foundation's affairs to clear, or confirm, very genuine fears held by many Queenslanders that it has become a shelter and a favour-purchasing slush fund for tax evaders and the criminal fringe element?

Senator Boswell —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Jones's question is based on a premise of rumour and guestimates; he admits that in his question. I ask you to rule that the Minister cannot answer a question that is based on rumour.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order.

Senator WALSH —I am aware of the rumours to which Senator Jones referred; that is, that Mr Maher-either directly or indirectly-made a sizable donation to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation. I do not know whether that rumour is true but I would be surprised if he did not. I certainly agree that if the reports are true it is desirable that the Taxation Commissioner should try to recover those moneys.

The third part of Senator Jones's question is whether I will recommend to National Party management officials that they open up their books, effectively. I am quite happy to recommend to the National Party that it should do that but I doubt that it will. However, I will ask the Treasurer to see what legal action can be taken, either by the Taxation Commissioner or by the National Crime Authority-as Senator Jones suggested-to see whether the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation has received from Mr Maher, or an agent of his, money which was effectively stolen from the Commonwealth, and if such a donation was received, to see what action can be taken against the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation to recover the money so stolen.