bottom of the harbour

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From the metaphor of money hidden in an inaccessible place. Also, allegedly, incriminating records were in some cases disposed of by dumping them in Sydney Harbour.


bottom of the harbour (uncountable)

  1. (Australia, attributive) A tax avoidance scheme from the 1970s.
    • 1982 June 5, Sydney Morning Herald, page 13:
      The 'bottom of the harbour' scheme was so named because a company once stripped of its assets, was dumped and, like a body in a cement suit, sank never to be seen again.
    • 1983, Rob Chalmers, Jenny Hutchison, Don Whitington, Inside Canberra: A Guide to Australian Federal Politics, page 121,
      John Howard argued that he was a relatively new Treasurer in 1978 when he was first given some advice from Treasury officials concerning the bottom-of-the-harbour tax schemes.
    • 1985, Australian House of Representatives, House of Representatives weekly Hansard, Issue 18, page 2021,
      Finally, the Leader of the Opposition was caught out for a third time by the 1984 report of the bottom of the harbour Special Prosecutor, Robert Gyles, who sheeted home the responsibility in this way.
    • 2010, John Howard, Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography, unnumbered page,
      The bottom-of-the-harbour scheme involved a practice which effectively denuded a company of any assets, meaning it was unable to meet its tax obligations. [] With bottom-of-the-harbour schemes the legal obligation remained, but the company had no assets with which to meet the obligation.


  • G. A. Wilkes, A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms, second edition, 1985, Sydney University Press, →ISBN.