The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 24/08/01

TRANSCRIPT
of
HON. PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Doorstop
Launceston

Friday, 24 August 2001
9.40am

 

SUBJECTS: GROOM FEC

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, Labor claims you should resign because of misleading Parliament yesterday over this input taxing credits in Queensland, the Liberal branch. What is your response?

TREASURER:

Well, earlier this week Kim Beazley dragged his daughter into public life and falsely claimed that she had been turned away by the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, a claim which has now been exposed as false. The Labor Party decided on Thursday of this week, that in order to divert attention, and this was admitted by the Labor Party in the newspapers today, in order to divert attention from Mr Beazley and his false accusations, that they would make some further false accusations. This is a complete diversionary strategy from Mr Beazley, and it is admitted in today's Age.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Let me go through the facts, let me go through the facts here. Let me go through the facts here. The documents which were tabled in the Parliament by the Labor Party yesterday show that GST was paid. That is what they actually show. They do not show that an input tax credit was improperly claimed. And, I have made inquiries of the Federal Liberal Party which is responsible for complying with the Tax Act and they say that they have made disclosure to the Tax Office and this matter has been settled. So unless the Labor Party has any further evidence, on the documentation as it stands at the moment - GST, the $826 - was paid. Was paid. Now, what I am waiting for, is, I am waiting for the Labor Party to come up with some evidence that the tax obligations were not met, because according to those that are responsible, and I am not responsible for filing the tax returns as I have made clear, and according to those who are, they say that they have discussed this matter with the Tax Office and the GST obligations have been complied with, so...

JOURNALIST:

At the very least though there is embarrassment that a branch of the Liberal Party could falsely claim something then have to seek clarification through the Tax office off its own policy?

TREASURER:

Well . . .

JOURNALIST:

I mean at the very least . . .

TREASURER:

. . . let me make this point. It is not clear that anybody claimed it back, and I certainly have no knowledge of that, right? But if somebody claimed an input tax credit which they were not entitled to do, if that occurred then it should not have occurred. And if that was wrongly done, then the proper thing to do is to disclose that to the Australian Taxation Office and have it reversed. If that occurred, that is what should have been done. But you have got to bear this in mind, I am not responsible for filing the tax returns of millions of taxpayers, including the Groom FEC and the Queensland Liberal Party. I don't even know if it was claimed, and in fact the inquiries that I have made have told me that it wasn't. Now, if somebody has got proof that the claim was made, or that it hasn't been corrected then that should be referred to the Australian Taxation Office.


JOURNALIST:

(inaudible). . . You inferred in Question Time yesterday very clearly that you didn't know anything about it. Later, only within hours, you were forced to put out a statement showing that there was correspondence between the Small Business Minister and you as early as March. Did you mislead the Parliament yesterday?

TREASURER:

Well, there was no correspondence between the Small Business Minister and me. I think you have to be very precise here. You have just said there was correspondence between the Small Business Minister and me. There is no correspondence between the Small Business Minister and me . . .

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Let's got through the facts. The facts are that a dinner was organised in Toowoomba, which as far as I can tell from the Labor Party's documents, because I haven't seen the documents, GST was paid. I was not responsible for any of those arrangements, I was not informed about them, I was not responsible for any of the returns. That is the truth. In February of this year, as I said last night, a member of the Liberal Party complained to me about the Groom FEC and my office referred that complaint to the member concerned. The same member of the Liberal Party complained to Lynton Crosby and Lynton Crosby has made a statement that he inquired into the matter and his inquiries showed that the obligations had been met. Now, if anyone has evidence that the obligations have not been met - and I certainly don't have any, these returns are not filed by me, they are not sent to me, they are sent to the Australian Taxation Office. If anybody has any evidence that an improper claim was made, or, that in having been made it was not properly disclosed and corrected, then they should produce that evidence and the Australian Taxation Office would be very, very pleased to receive it, I am sure. But the information that comes to us is that this has been disclosed.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible). . .aren't you embarrassed that as the Party that introduced the tax you can't even apply it to yourself properly.

TREASURER:

Well, as I said earlier, if the Liberal Party has made any errors in its return they should be corrected. I have said the same in relation to any business. If any business has made any error it should be corrected. . .


JOURNALIST:

But you're saying . . .

TREASURER:

Now, I have said over, and over again in the Parliament, and I will say it again today, if anybody has made an error in relation to a return, that once they become aware of that error they should disclose it to the Australian Taxation Office and they should correct any errors. And that goes for the Liberal Party, it goes for the Labor Party, and if there are going to be audits in relation to the Labor Party, I hope the Labor Party also acknowledges its errors. . .

JOURNALIST:

But Treasurer surely we can expect the Party that introduced the tax to be able to apply it to itself correctly. I mean that is very embarrassing isn't it?

TREASURER:

No. We ask all taxpayers to comply with their obligations . . .

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

People make mistakes from time to time, I dare say you might have made a mistake in your tax return from time to time, but if you have what I would say is once you become aware of it, the proper thing to do . . .

JOURNALIST:

But I didn't write the tax, Mr Treasurer.

TREASURER:

I don't think the FEC did either.

JOURNALIST:

So you're saying that on the evidence available . . .

TREASURER:

If it became aware, if it became aware of an error, then the proper thing to do is to disclose that to the Taxation Office. This is the advice we have been giving to all small businesses, to disclose it to the Taxation Office and correct it.

JOURNALIST:

Isn't this . . .

TREASURER:

Now, you know, you are going into a new taxation system, people were having to understand their obligations. We said to small business that during the phase-in period, errors would be made. That where errors were made, the important thing was to disclose them, where they are disclosed, to fix them up. And I think we are now 12 months into it, undoubtedly a lot of people when they were adjusting to this would have had doubts about the situation. I say to all people, I say it to the Liberal Party, I say it to the Labor Party - if you become aware of an error, the important thing to do is to get onto the Tax Office to disclose it and fix it. And from the inquiries I have made from those that are responsible, that is what happened.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) do you (inaudible) to your knowledge?

TREASURER:

Well, I have the ALP documents. The ALP documents show that GST was paid. We have an allegation that an input tax credit was claimed, but no evidence of that, and we have assurances from the people that are responsible that they have disclosed these matters and it has been fixed up with the Tax Office. Now, that is what we have, and that is what I accept.

Thank you.