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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 653

Mr STAPLES —I address my question to the Prime Minister. Does the Federal Government anticipate early success in its efforts to reduce tax avoidance and evasion?

Mr HAWKE —As is well known, the Government has already taken several steps to reduce tax avoidance and evasion and to improve the efficiency of the taxation system. I refer, of course, to the tax recoupment legislation. I refer to the prescribed payments system in industry where tax evasions of payment for work and services is known to be significant. I refer also to our proposed amendments to section 26A of the Income Tax Assessment Act to correct certain defects. The Federal Government's attack on tax avoidance and evasion is, unfortunately, seriously threatened by the attitude of the Opposition. Its ostensible reason for opposing the Government's tax recoupment legislation is its retrospective ele- ment. In doing so, the Opposition is being totally inconsistent and hypocritical, since retrospectivity was the principal distinguishing feature of the recoupment legislation which it introduced when in government. So that this matter can be quite clear I want to remind the House and put on the record what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said on 23 September of last year. He said:

Because of the illegal behaviour of some people involved in bottom-of-the- harbour schemes, because the benefits derived by people in those schemes have been very considerable and because of the public concern about the prevalence of those schemes, the Government has decided that special circumstances do exist whereby, on this occasion, in putting those principles into balance, the principle of paying service to the overall fairness and equity of the taxation system and the perception of people in the community regarding the fairness and equity of the taxation system ought to take precedence over the Government's general concern about and disdain for, on proper grounds, retrospective legislation.

This shows that the retrospectivity argument now being used by the Opposition is totally specious. There is a total credibility gap between what the Opposition was saying when it was in government and what it is saying at present for cheap political purposes. The real reason for the Opposition opposing the legislation is that it wants to protect the tax avoiders and the rip-off merchants in this country. We know, because it is a matter of record, that when the now Opposition was in government its response to tax avoidance and evasion was feeble and belated. It emerged only by accident when its own Royal Commissioner Costigan, who was in charge of a royal commissison which was set up to pursue the unions, brought out in his report the evidence about the extent of the industry. Not only did that spark some reluctant interest but also we know that it sunk the Government because it sunk its ideas about having an early election in September .

But now, under the new leadership of the new Leader of the Opposition, the position of honourable members opposite is far worse that it was before because they have caved in entirely. That Opposition, led by the new Leader of the Opposition, has caved in entirely to the tax avoidance industry. Honourable members opposite tried to protect people in that industry while they were in government. They did protect them for many years, and now they are trying to protect them while they are in opposition. The decision of the Opposition to oppose the tax recoupment legislation, if it is successful, will cost the Budget revenue in this financial year $60m, and it would cost $270m in a full year. The simple and unavoidable facts are that the honest taxpayers of Australia, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia, will have to foot this bill if the Opposition is successful. Any substitute revenue measure the Government will have to introduce to make up for that loss will be known as the Peacock tax slug. The behaviour of the Opposition on the prescribed payments system is another case of its continuing moral decay. As is known, when it was in government it introduced that system in its last Budget.

In conclusion on this subject, the Opposition is now reverting to its old colours, the colours it displayed between 1975 and the latter years of its government. Opposition members are blatant apologists for the tax avoidance industry and are being increasingly recognised as such by all those Australians who meet their tax bill and who will have it increased if the action of the Opposition, in protecting tax avoiders, is unfortunately successful.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask the Prime Minister to table the document from which he was reading.

Mr Hawke —I was referring to notes.

Mr SPEAKER —The Prime Minister was referring to notes.