Thursday, 4 July 2019
Commissioner of Taxation; Order for the Production of Documents
(1) That the Senate notes that—
(i) had instructed employees to issue standard garnishee notices to seize funds from taxpayers' bank accounts without notice or consideration of their personal and business circumstances, and
(ii) in doing so, had required employees to engage in conduct that was unethical, unprofessional and against the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct;
(b) on 27 October 2017, the ATO decided not to further investigate Mr Boyle's disclosure on the basis that the information did not concern serious disclosable conduct as defined in the PID Act; and
(c) subsequent media inquiries found anomalies in the ATO's debt collection practices that appeared consistent with Mr Boyle's disclosure.
(2) That the Senate is of the opinion that—
(a) whistleblowers must be protected to ensure integrity and deter misconduct within the government and the public sector; and
(b) examining the ATO's actions in relation to Mr Boyle's disclosure is consistent with the Senate's role in providing oversight of government administration.
(3) That the Senate orders the Commissioner of Taxation to provide all documents relating to the disclosure generated or received by Mr Boyle's supervisor, authorised officer and principal officer (as defined in the PID Act to the Economics Legislation Committee (the committee) by no later than 5 pm on 10 July 2019.
(4) That the committee, when it has considered the documents, report to the Senate as to whether the ATO's handling of disclosures by whistleblowers warrants further inquiry.
We believe that the public release of the information requested within this motion would potentially prejudice future legal proceedings being a fair trial of criminal charges by jury.
Mr Boyle is before the courts, dealing with matters relating to recordings and taking documents home. This order for the production of documents is to examine the conduct of the ATO, not of Mr Boyle. It's a really important issue—that we make sure we protect whistleblowers. I'm not satisfied, from the information that I have, that the ATO has done its job properly, and it is incumbent upon the Senate—noting that this is a whistleblower protection issue—to conduct oversight in relation to this matter.
Just to assist the chamber: there has been some conversation across the table; it may assist the chamber if Senator Patrick might be prepared to defer this motion and we might have some further conversations.
I'm in the hands of the chamber. Senator Patrick, you are able to seek leave to defer this until—to use the correct words, Mr Clerk: 'to a later hour'?—to the next day of sitting or a later hour. It has been suggested that you seek leave to defer this matter until the next day of sitting, but it's your call, Senator Patrick.