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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3042


Senator VIGOR(4.05) —When the luncheon break intervened I was justifying the figures I had quoted earlier in the day and which were attacked by Senator Walsh. In fact, I said that a 35 per cent reduction in bottle sales had been claimed by wine companies in relation to the distribution of bottles from warehouses. That figure came from the Business Against Non-Deductibility organisation, which collected this information from various wine companies in Australia, who had supplied the figures for bottles sold since 19 September. In fact, although the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, which covered the period from July to October, suggested a drop of only one per cent over that period, the people who are actually selling the wine have claimed a 35 per cent reduction in bottle sales. From the latest figures I obtained from the Parliamentary Library, over that same period there was a total drop of 9 per cent in wine sales-both bulk wines and bottled wines.

The figures we have from the Government are fairly limited. We asked the Government for its working papers on this subject; I have never seen them. However, I have seen the BIS-Shrapnel report, the executive summary of which I incorporated in Hansard last night. The figures were $330m in revenue according to the Government and $79m in revenue according to BIS-Shrapnel. Who is right? Considering the history of the Government in terms of supplying figures to us, I prefer to trust the BIS-Shrapnel figures. The suspicion arises that the figures were calculated from a very small sample of tax returns which were used to predict the revenue forgone, without any further analysis. The attitude of the Treasurer (Mr Keating) when he was asked in Parliament to provide details on how Treasury arrived at its estimates increases my concern. In the House of Representatives he was asked that question by Mr Carlton and he stated that no previous Treasurer had been asked to justify his figures in that way.

In a democracy I believe that Parliament has the right to question the basis of a law and the types of figures on which that law is based before it is passed. In this case the Treasurer laughed off the question, which can be seen on page 3564 of Hansard for 25 November 1985. As I have said, the Treasurer's basis for doing that was that no former Treasurer had ever been asked to justify reasons for imposing a tax. I believe that that was, in fact, false. Treasurers may have been asked for such information. If they have not provided it, that is a disgrace. I believe that it is quite beneficial and proper for a Treasurer and the Department of Finance to examine critically the estimates and assertions of other parties. They cannot then expect their assertions and assumptions to be clothed in the mystique of a professional judgment.

I remind the Senate of the rubbery figures of some of former Treasurer Lynch's Budgets-the concealed blowout before the 1983 election. More recently, last year there was the massive overestimate of a $2 billion provisional tax increase, which failed to take account of the forecast fall of 10 per cent in farm incomes. The attempt of the Treasurer to blame this on tax evasion and avoidance by farmers in the face of their increased economic distress was, I believe, in very bad taste. Earlier this year economic experts in social welfare disagreed with aspects of the Treasurer's White Paper on taxation reform. It transpired that officers of the Treasury had manipulated available statistics until they supported the outcome the Government wished to achieve.

The figures given in the submissions of Treasury and Finance to the Self National Inquiry into Local Government Finance were incorrect. Those figures were strongly argued but were based on a 1976 survey, which in turn was based on statistics from the 1960s. The Self inquiry completely rejected these figures and arguments. I quote from chapter 4.8 of the report:

Both the Commonwealth Treasury and Department of Finance have relied heavily on Groenewegen's 1976 study of rate effort in New South Wales. This survey was based on data from the 1960s, and so predates the introduction of general revenue-sharing.

How can one argue for the abolition of general revenue sharing without looking at the changes which led to it? I really feel that we have to examine figures before we can accept Treasury estimates. This is another of the reasons why I am supporting the Opposition's amendment to put in substantiation, which is, I believe, the only sensible way of forcing people to obey the law and also of making the law sensible, in that I believe firmly that costs properly incurred in achieving income should be totally claimable as part of taxable income.