Remember the days when misleading
parliament used to be a sackable offence and self-respecting
politicians would immediately move to correct the record when they had
made an inaccurate statement? OK, maybe that was a dream.

Peter
Costello is copping it all over the place but the Prime Minister was
even looser with the truth than his Treasurer yesterday over the Rob
Gerard affair. On Tuesday John Howard told Parliament:

The relevant point about the dispute between Mr Gerard and the
Australian Taxation Office is that, by hand of the letter from the
commissioner, all the outstanding matters were resolved. So what is the
fuss all about?

There
never were any outstanding matters relating to Mr Gerard’s personal tax
affairs, they were all about his 50% owned company Gerard Industries,
something Terry McCrann clearly spells out in another strong column
this morning calling for Gerard’s resignation.

By yesterday
afternoon this surely must have been apparent to the PM, particularly
after Costello told the house that Gerard’s 14-year corporate battle
wasn’t settled until late 2003. Check out page 62 of yesterday’s Hansard
when Costello was asked when Gerard Industries reached its settlement
with the ATO: “It was achieved in late 2003, I believe. I cannot give
you the precise date.”

Given that we all agree Gerard was
appointed in March 2003, it is clear that Howard misled the house when
he claimed “all the outstanding matters were resolved”. They were not.

Yet
just 10 minutes after Costello confirmed the “late 2003” settlement,
the PM was asked whether he stood by his false claim on Tuesday and he
managed to say the following with a straight face:

I repeat what I said yesterday. What I said
yesterday was absolutely correct. Naturally, because of the secrecy
provisions of the Tax Act, I am not privy to the individual affairs of
a taxpayer, but I am privy to the wording of a letter which was
provided by the tax commissioner and that wording stands for itself.

As
we’ve said before, there were never any issues with Rob Gerard’s
personal tax return. The Tax Commissioner should be rebuked for sending
a mealy mouthed letter that said there was no “personal” issues at
exactly the same time as the mother of all bunfights was playing out in
public in the Adelaide courts.

The press has been absolutely
unanimous about this pathetic hair splitting, yet our two most
important leaders continue to rely on this laughable ruse. If they can
be this bald-faced on something so obvious, it makes you wonder about
every weasel words denial that comes from this government.

Former NSW Auditor General Tony Harris summed it up perfectly on The 7.30 Report
last night when he said that if Gerald “wishes to look after the
Reserve Bank, he would do well by the bank and, indeed, by his own
reputation by seeing that he should resign.”