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.

Alternative forms[edit]


bottom of the harbour ‎(uncountable)

  1. (Australia) A tax avoidance scheme from the 1970s.
    • 1982 5 June, 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 0-424-00113-6.