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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4386

Mr WHITLAM - I ask the Treasurer a . question supplementary to that asked of him by the honourable member for Chiefley about the Norfolk Island tax haven. I ask (he honourable gentleman: Has he sought, and if so has he yet studied a report from his taxation advisers on the New Hebrides tax haven? I ask him whether the committee of Ministers concerned with taxation matters has considered the New Hebrides tax haven. Finally I ask whether, since the New Hebrides is an Anglo-French condominium, he has asked the Prime Minister, who is still the means of communication with the British Government, or the Foreign Minister, who is the means of communication with the French Government, to study this aspect.

Mr SNEDDEN - I do not know to which report the honourable gentleman refers in particular. I have seen a number of papers from the Taxation Office in general on tax minimisation including that element which is tax minimisation arising out of the use of havens outside Australian territory. It is a matter which conerns me and indeed it concerns every country in the world, whether the haven is a total haven or half haven or whatever it is. It is not an easy problem to cure, but it is one of which the taxation officers are very well aware and so am 1. 1 have decided that we ought first to approach that area upon which we have undoubted legislative power, and that is in relation to our own Territories. Hence the priority of Norfolk Island remains higher.

Mr Whitlam - There has been no approach to Britain or France?

Mr SNEDDEN - There has 'riot been any approach to Britain or France of which I am aware. There may have been an approach at an officer level of which I am not aware.

I would like to take the opportunity of saying that that part of the Treasury con- . cerned with tax policy and the Taxation Office are staffed by experts of the highest quality but unfortunately there are not enough of these people who have the expertise to handle all the problems that come up at the same time.

Later today I will be introducing some legislation which will move to cure 2 areas of tax minimisation - that is the wrong use df public companies or what purport to be public companies and dividend stripping. When one considers the amount of work that has to be put into the preparation of such measures by expert officers in the Taxation Office and the Treasury and Parliamentary Counsel, I am sure that the honourable gentleman will understand the degree of difficulty we have in these mat ters. We now have another programme of action which will follow on to other areas. When work on the Norfolk Island situation is finished I will look at the other matter.

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