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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15275

The PRESIDENT (3:36 PM) —During the committee stage of the Customs Tariff Amendment (ACIS) Bill 2003 earlier today, the Temporary Chairman of Committees Senator Watson indicated that the amendments moved by Senator Brown could not be moved in the Senate because they would have the effect of converting the bill into a bill imposing taxation, and the Senate cannot initiate a bill proposing taxation under paragraph 1 of section 53 of the Constitution. Senator Brown later withdrew the amendments but asked that the chair's statement be the subject of further advice. The reason I am giving this answer now is to provide that advice as soon as possible.

The amendments were not drafted for Senator Brown by the Senate department and neither the Clerk of the Senate nor his colleagues had the opportunity to examine them before they were circulated. They are also defective in wording. The Clerk will point out to the source of the amendments the dangers of having amendments moved in the Senate without appropriate advice and scrutiny.

The bill is not a bill imposing taxation as it does not impose any new tariffs or increase the rates of any existing tariffs. For the Senate to amend such a bill so as to increase tariffs is the equivalent of the Senate initiating an imposition of taxation. The Senate department therefore advises senators that such amendments may not be moved. There is an argument that such amendments could be moved as requests under the third paragraph of section 53, relating to increasing a `charge or burden'. This view, however, leads to several subsidiary difficulties. The better interpretation is that such amendments should not be moved in the Senate at all as they amount to initiating an imposition of taxation.