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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 573

Mr EWEN CAMERON —My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to his claim that the defeat of the so-called bottom of the harbour legislation now before the Parliament would reduce projected revenue receipts this financial year by $ 60m and would threaten the Government's strategy for economic recovery. In the light of this claim, will the Treasurer inform the House as to what effect on the Government's strategy for economic recovery its decision to change the Budget night announcements will have on fuel oil excise, which this financial year involves a loss of $69m in revenue and a total Budget turnaround of $145m?

Mr KEATING —We do not need any smart questions from the Opposition to try to smother the fact that it is in the business of protecting the tax avoidance industry in this country. I will give an example of the thorough inconsistency of honourable members opposite. Last year, when they were the Government of Australia, they were in the business of recouping company tax collections, which were denied to the Government by way of bottom of the harbour tax avoidance measures, on current year profits-not the profits on retained earnings in former years or the capital of former years but on current year profits. The Government , in its legislation, proposes to collect money which would have been paid as personal taxation had profits been distributed instead of being stripped as a result of the activities of the tax avoidance industry so that now they can never be distributed.

The Liberal Party, in its decaying morality, in its party room the other day indicated to the public that it would vote against the Government's taxation measures in the Senate, thereby ulti- mately denying the public $270m. That exposes once and for all the absolute duplicity of saying, on the one hand, that company tax can be collected but, on the other hand, that in respect of the retained earnings there should be no collection on the very same profits in the very same years. For example, for every $100, $46 would be collected in company tax under the recoupment legislation of the former Treasurer. Under the Government's legislation tax would be collected on the balance of the $100. The Opposition says that in some way that is different money, that in some way it is morally different to collect tax on that money because in the year in question it could have been retained in the company.

The Liberal Party members have simply returned to type-gone back to their old colours. Once the spotlight of government is removed from them they are back in the old business of protecting the tax avoidance industry, as they did for five years when the Commissioner of Taxation was writing to the then Treasurer asking him, month by month, to do something about the bottom of the harbour and other tax avoidance procedures-at a time when we saw the greatest tax avoidance scandal of all time. It was exposed only by the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, which was set up in the first place not to investigate tax avoidance but to try to embarrass the Australian Labor Party. Let us be clear about that.

There was an adjustment to fuel oil collections because of the perceived hardship which the Government believed would ensue in respect of the rate of collection from certain companies. The $270m in all is money which belongs to the people of Australia, money which will have to be made up, ultimately, by honest taxpayers while honourable members opposite protect the rip-off merchants , cheats and rorters with whom they have been in bed for years.