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Thursday, 18 November 1993
Page: 3151

Senator COONEY (3.18 p.m.) —It is appropriate that I answer what Senator Parer has just said. He is absolutely right: Senator Bishop is entitled to put in a dissenting report or, as she says, a report that adds to what is in the committee's report. What I took Senator McMullan to be saying is that he disagreed with some of the material in that report. Just as Senator Bishop is entitled to put in a dissenting report, surely Senator McMullan is entitled to make points about what appears in that report—and I would have thought that Senator Bishop was more than able to look after herself.

  Senator Bishop raised the question of Mr Wright. The chair of Estimates Committee D, Senator Coates, who is noted for his fairness in these matters, passed me a copy of the Hansard for Tuesday 9 November 1993. On page 525 there appears some material relating to program 6 and dealing with taxation administration and the way things are raised in estimates committees. Senator Coates introduced the item by saying:

The first item concerns the affairs of Mr Charles Wright. Senator Bishop has informed us that she has no questions about the matter. We will incorporate the letter from Brian Nolan, second commissioner, on this matter. It answers the issue raised at the previous hearing.

Senator Bishop —No, it does not.

Senator COONEY —Senator Bishop intervenes and says that it does not answer the question. It is a matter for people who look at this in a fair way to judge whether it does or does not. The letter reads:

Mr Richard Gilbert


Estimates Committee D

The Senate

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Mr Gilbert

At the hearing of Estimates Committee D on 2 September 1993, I undertook—

`I' being the second commissioner of taxation, a person who wrote this letter not ostensibly as a member of any political party. I do not know whether he is a member of any political party but he certainly does not appear before the committee on that basis—

to investigate the substance of a question by Senator Bishop as to whether there had been less than proper pursuit of a PAYE debt attributed to a particular company that is subject to winding up proceedings.

As I indicated to the Committee at that time, I am unable to discuss details of the tax affairs of any company or individual. I wish to place on record, however, that I have examined this matter in the meantime and I am satisfied that neither the company nor any director received any form of preferential treatment. I can also report that there was no external or internal interference with debt recovery processes.

Yours sincerely

(B.M. Nolan)

Second Commissioner of Taxation

Senator Bishop —That does not answer the question.

Senator COONEY —Senator Bishop has interjected and said that it does not answer the question. It becomes an issue of whether that letter is an answer to the question. Mr Nolan said:

. . . I undertook to investigate the substance of a question by Senator Bishop . . .

According to his understanding of what the question was, he said that it was answered here. It is proper for Senator McMullan to comment on what is contained in a report by any senator, whether Senator Bishop or anyone else, and it is proper for this letter that has been sent by Mr Nolan to be read out.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.