General George Brandis 's ' The Bell Group Legislation Scandal Yesterday Doesn 't Get Us Particularly Far?

1207 Words Nov 29th, 2016 5 Pages
Attorney-General George Brandis’ extended self-defence of his role in the Bell group legislation scandal yesterday doesn’t get us particularly far in clarifying questions about the Western Australian government’s attempt to dud taxpayers, and the government’s role in encouraging them. Two major public interest questions remain, along with a serious political question.

First, why did the Western Australian government believe it had a done deal with the Commonwealth that the Bell legislation — which would have cost the Australian Tax Office $300 million in lost tax revenue, as the legislation put the ATO down the queue of creditors of the failed Bell Group — would not be challenged by the Commonwealth? “[T]he Commonwealth’s agreement was critical to the passage of the Bell Act,” WA Treasurer Mike Nahan said in WA Parliament in May. “We had a deal with the Commonwealth that it would not oppose the Bell Act. Despite the deal we thought we had, the Australian Taxation Office thought that it had to have its say in the High Court.”

Such a deal, if entered into by the Commonwealth, would have been a serious dereliction of duty by the government — especially given the Barnett government is politically aligned with the Coalition — giving up $300 million for a political mate. Why did Nahan think there was a deal? When he wrote to then-treasurer Joe Hockey in April 2015 following conversations between the two, he said: “I also trust that you would see no need for the Commonwealth to…

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