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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 1497


Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - I congratulate the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) for his contribution to this debate. I think it is a very worthy point that he brings up. We are, of course, debating the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of the Treasury and the Advance to the Treasurer. I would like to have a little to say on each of these 3 headings. I deal first with the Advance to. the Treasurer. I would like to see in future years the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Advance to the Treasurer come before this Parliament before we debate the estimates on this section of the Budget. This report will be presented next Thursday. I remind honourable members that one of the 3 main functions of the Public Accounts Committee is to look at the estimating from year to year. That look at the estimates takes into account not only where the estimates are underspent but also whether a call has been made on the Advance to the Treasurer. It is an important function of the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee does that work on behalf of this Parliament. As with so much of the work in this Parliament, it is like an iceberg; two-thirds of it is under the water, and I think we should be reminded in this chamber of the work of that Committee.

I move on to the Department of the Treasury and make a few points about the responsibilities of that Department, first of all in relation to taxation. When we were debating the tax Bills I mentioned that the policy of the Australian Labor Party in relation to taxation is a 3-pronged policy. First of all, many moons ago we realised that we needed a Commonwealth inquiry into the whole field of taxation. We also realised that this will be a long term project; that the committee of inquiry which has been appointed by the Government will take a year longer to report than was expected. lt will probably have a history much like that of the Carter Committee in Canada or the royal commission into taxation in New Zealand, setting the course for the next 10 years. It is necessary to have a document such as the report this committee of inquiry will produce.

Taxation is not something that can be or should be changed quickly overnight. People have to realise well in advance where the sights are levelled. That is why we have a second and third arm to our taxation policy, the second one being the setting up of an Australian taxation foundation along the lines of the Canadian Taxation Foundation. The third arm - I repeat what I said in the debate on the taxation Bills - is to utilise the tremendous talent that we know exists in the Taxation Office for closing loopholes and having a whole new look at taxation, but because of the political masters the Taxation Office has had for so long a lot of the avenues into which I believe it would like to con duct investigations and for which it has plans in its drawers have been closed to it. I promise the personnel in the Taxation Office that that talent will be unleashed and they will be given an opportunity to use these programmes and these plans when there is a change of government later this year.

Coming back to the committee of inquiry which at least we have got, I want to make a couple of points. The first of them I made during question time in a question I put to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), and that is that if the real interests of this country were being served he would have consulted the Opposition in relation to the personnel of that committee of inquiry and also its terms of reference, because there are not many people in this country today who do not believe that there will soon be a change of government. I point out that I believe the present committee will be reporting to a Labor government. It would be so much more sensible if the personnel of the committee reflected the wide range of thoughts and philosophies which exist in our country. I do not know any of the members of the committee personally and I do not reflect on them. But I do not believe that any of them have much of a connection with the reform side of politics in this country. I think that it is important that somebody on the committee should have such a connection and look at things through the eyes of the vast number of people who vote Labor in this country.

I am not suggesting that that person should be a member of the Australian Labor Party. But taxation is a matter in which philosophy and an attitude to life are involved. I believe that it is rather unfortunate that the committee is a narrow one. Before I move away from dealing with the personnel of the committee I would like to state that the same remarks apply to the terms of reference. They also should have been drawn up in consultation with our shadow treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) so that the work of the committee would be of value to a Labor government and not just to a non-Labor government.

The second matter that I want to touch on is in relation to the Department of the Treasury also and relates to the Taxation Branch. It is the matter of publicising the names of those who are in default vis-a-vis the Taxation Act. I believe that it is terribly important that names of people who have been, we can almost say, really criminally involved in avoiding tax should be published. But it is my experience that some people - perhaps only a few - whose names are included in that list are people who have been avoiding tax rather that evading tax. They are people who have, perhaps through their advisers, taken one view of the law but the boards of review or the courts - whether it be a single judge, the Supreme Court or the High Court - have taken another view of the law.

I may be wrong and I hope that if I am the Treasurer will correct me. But I have had some correspondence with the Treasurer on this subject. I do not like to see injustices done to individuals in our community. I believe that this matter is worth pursuing further. I hope the Treasurer or those who are representing him here tonight will look further into this matter and give me an explanation. I repeat that if people have been evading tax deliberately and criminally against the law the names of those people should be published along with the other penalties which they incur. But if it is a matter of opinion on the law and this opinion has gone against a person in the court, I think that some discretion should be shown.

The next matter to which I wish to refer relates to the Public Service Board and the fact that we have in our midst at the moment until after the federal election Dr David Butler of Oxford University. I want to quote from a copy of the 'Canberra Times'. The headline states:

PS 'spoilt' by years of Liberal rule.

The article reads:

British political scientist Dr David Butler chided the Commonwealth Public Service last night for being 'spoilt by 23 years of non-change', and for failing to give enough thought to the effects on the bureaucracy of a change of government. Dr Butler was addressing a meeting of the ACT group of the Royal Institute of Public Administration.

The article further states:

Dr Butlersuggested the British practice whereby duplicate files were prepared for the new minister giving all the fact and arguments, but free from any quotations or observations of his predecessor.

I hope that the suspicions bred by 23 years of opposition will not lead an incoming Labor gov ernment here to act very differently from the British precedent', Dr Butler said.

Dealing with the last quotation first, 1 can assure Dr Butler that an incoming Labor government will not act differently from its Labour counterpart in the United Kingdom. I believe that we will observe the sort of principles that Dr Butler has been laying down. The main purpose of my quoting this article is to draw the attention of the House to it, to the views of Dr Butler on the changeover of government and to state that I hope the Public Service Board is looking at this. Indeed, I hope that the Public Service generally is getting ready for a change of government because there is nothing more certain than that we will have a change of government.







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