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Thursday, 18 November 1993
Page: 3148

Senator BISHOP (3.04 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services (Senator McMullan), to a question without notice asked by Senator Denman this day, relating to taxation.

I said earlier that I was quite happy to talk about the minority report that was tabled yesterday entitled Taxation is inevitable, injustice is not. I said in the opening pages of that report that it was a report which was in addition to the majority report rather than dissenting from it, except in relation to the two particular issues of the majority report recommending the establishment of a taxation commission and my wanting to have a taxation board, which was subsequently supported by Mr Downer in a press release.

  The other area of contention concerned the tabling and disallowance of rulings made by the Commissioner of Taxation which have the effect of making law which I believe should be made by the parliament. The other important area that I dealt with and I said was not dealt with in the majority report, was the question of the failure of the Commissioner of Taxation, since the 1985 tax summit, to publish estimates of the amount of revenue that should be collected.

  In the last 10 years we have seen the Labor Party bring in so-called reforms which have been designed to close evasion and avoidance loopholes. The only way we can measure the success of that is if we see the amount of money that is available to be collected and measure that against the amount that is, in fact, being collected. Therefore, the most serious matter that I dealt with in my report relates to the fact that the commissioner has failed to produce these estimates and that since the mid-1980s the financial accounts of the Australian Taxation Office have been qualified by the Auditor-General. That is a very serious matter for the commissioner and for the tax office as a whole.

  Let me deal with the other place and Mr Gear, who was having a quid each way too. He had not bothered to read the report—which, of course, one would never want to let get in the way of making a good point, would one? He said that I was commenting in my report on the need to further analyse self-assessment before it is fully implemented. I might add that the majority report made a similar recommendation.

  The other point that needs to be made relates to the FBT and one other tax. I said these were outside the terms of reference and should be looked at by an external review to make them more efficient. But on the question of Mr Tony Wright, I think I have to be very specific.

Senator McMullan —Wrong one.

Senator BISHOP —Mr Tony Wright was the bagman for the Labor Party—Mr Charles Wright, I beg the Senate's pardon. Mr Charles Wright was named in the Western Australian royal commission. The WA Inc. report found:

The other payments of particular concern were made to Mr Charles Wright, who operated a fundraising and business relations consultancy. He had done work for the ALP since 1976 in assisting with fundraising at the Federal level . . . Subsequently, Mr Wright made payments to Mrs Brush for which he was recompensed from the No. 1 account. In essence, Mr Wright was a conduit for $80 000 that was paid from the No. 1 Account to Mrs Brush. Mr Burke gave a similar explanation.

In other words, he was the conduit man for the disgraceful fundraising effort in WA Inc. The same Mr Wright was appointed by the ACT government to the position of head of the ACT Tourism Commission after he went bankrupt and went into liquidation. He was said to get that position because of his business experience. This is the same man about whom I asked the question in my report: why was it that, he, Mr Wright was not picked up for three years for failure to pay his PAYE tax and ordinary Australians, on the evidence of the tax office, were picked up almost immediately? That is the question which the tax office and the minister have refused to answer. It is a question perfectly legitimately on the public record and is not in breach of taxpayers' rights, which I and the majority of the committee support.