Some historical perspectives on tax

Sir Garfield Barwick AK GCMG QC


“In the language of the layman, the citizen is entitled to minimise his liability to pay tax. This is sometimes expressed as a right to avoid tax, an expression which is in contradiction to the evasion of tax, a failure to pay tax which is properly due.”

“A Radical Tory” (The Federation Press, 1995) at p 229
Sir Garfield Barwick AK GCMG QC
Attorney-General of Australia, Minister for External Affairs and the seventh and longest serving Chief Justice of Australia 1964-1981

Kerry Packer AC


“I am not evading tax in any way, shape or form. Now of course I am minimizing my tax and if anybody in this country doesn’t minimize their tax they want their heads read because as a government I can tell you you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra.”

Print Media Enquiry 1991
Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer AC
Australian billionaire media magnate and famous for introducing World Series Cricket in 1977

James Avon Clyde, Lord Clyde


“No man in the country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel in his stores. The Inland Revenue is not slow, and quite rightly, to take every advantage which is open to it under the Taxing Statutes for the purposes of depleting the taxpayer’s pocket. And the taxpayer is in like manner entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue”

Ayrshire Pullman Motor Services v Inland Revenue [1929] 14 Tax Case 754, at 763,764
James Avon Clyde, Lord Clyde (1863 – 1944)
Privy Counsellor, Lord Justice General, Lord President of the Court of Session

Sir Harry Gibbs GCMG AC KBE QC


“The laws relating to income tax are a disgrace………….Much of legislation is obscure to the point of being incomprehensible.”

“…..practising accountants no longer try to unravel the mysteries of the legislation by reading its provisions. Rather they rely on the various documents and rulings issued by the Australian Taxation Office – a subordination of the rule of law to the opinions of the Executive.”

Australia Day Message to members of The Samuel Griffith Society, 26 January, 2005
Sir Harry Gibbs, GCMG, AC, KBE, QC
Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1981 to 1987

George Harrison MBE



Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet. 

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me 

“Taxman” is a song written by George Harrison and released as the opening track on the Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver.
George Harrison MBE
Singer, songwriter and musician who achieved fame as the lead guitarist of the “Beatles”