Shadow Assistant Treasurer Joel Fitzgibbon is pursuing the government over the Operation Wickenby tax leaks. He’s shown his dissatisfaction with both tax chief Michael D’Ascenzo and his master, Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton, by placing six questions on notice to Peter Costello.
This was after D’Ascenzo was dragged screaming and yelling by the government to issue a press release after Crikey exposed the criminal leaking of prominent Australians’ personal tax affairs and started asking some hard questions.
Fitzgibbon told Crikey, “When the tax office wouldn’t act on the leaks Peter Dutton blustered he was going to do something about it but it’s as if someone has picked up the phone and told him ‘don’t go there mate’. It’s not good enough and I am demanding the government conduct a proper investigation into the leaking of confidential taxpayer information that is protected by law.”
“It strikes at the heart of a vital national institution in the ATO and to public confidence in its administration. Michael D’Ascenzo said there is no evidence to suggest any inappropriate release has occurred but two prominent taxpayers have made specific allegations against the ATO and the ACC,” says Fitzgibbon. “In view of the seriousness of these allegations I demand Peter Costello respond to me in a timely fashion.”
Fitzgibbon is referring to John Cornell and Melbourne celebrity lawyer Michael Brereton respectively. A couple of weeks ago I told Crikey readers how The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers seemed to be trying to get one up on each other with almost daily leaks of suspects, including prominent Australians Paul Hogan, John Cornell and Kostya Tszyu, involved in the multi agency investigation into serious tax fraud called Operation Wickenby.
The SMH’s John Garnaut boasted he was in receipt of an anonymous letter suggesting the author leaked information to Jennifer Sexton of The Australian to make a point that the Wickenby investigation was not all it has been cracked up to be.
The letter also said “She will now print an article per day on each of the nine groups. Day one was $40 million, day two was $400,000; wait till she gets to the pensioner group. The dirty secret will soon be out.”
The role of D’Ascenzo in all this is amplified by the fact he was appointed by the Government to head Operation Wickenby over other agency heads involved in the project such as the AFP’s Mick Keelty, the ACC’s Alastair Milroy and Damien Bugg from the DPP.