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Friday, 13 December 1996
Page: 7487


Senator SCHACHT(9.28 a.m.) —I move:

Schedule 1, item 13, page 5 (line 25) to page 26 (line 13), omit the item, substitute:

13 After subsection 39J(1)

Insert:

(1A)   The Board must not register a company under this section, in relation to the company's research and development activities, in respect of a year of income:

   (a)   if the year is the 1992-93 year of income or an earlier year of income:

      (i)   unless the application for registration was made on or before 2.30 pm, by legal time in the Australian Capital Territory, on 6 December 1995; and

      (ii)   unless the Board can be satisfied that the application for registration has been made in respect of bona fide research and development activities;

   (b)   if the years is the 1993-94 or 1994-95 year of income—unless the application for registration was made before 7 June 1996; or

   (c)   if the year is the 1995-96 year of income or a later year of income—unless the application for registration is made after the end of the year of income but within 6 months after the end of that year or within such further time as the Board allows.

(1B)   For the purposes of determining bona fide research and development activities in subparagraph (1A)(a)(ii) the Board shall have regard to factors including:

   (a)   when the research and development activities first commenced;

   (b)   whether there has been or is proposed to be a continuing program of research and development;

   (c)   whether the research and development activity was started with knowledge or expectation of or reliance on being eligible for the concession;

   (d)   the history of registration;

   (e)   whether the applicant company is or was at the relevant time in tax loss;

I do not know whether this bill is aptly described as the gravedigger's bill, but that is the phrase that has got into the lexicon around this place. We believe that the government amendments have not gone far enough. We note that the government has picked up the recommendation of government senators on the committee report which allowed for applications to be allowed from those with a history of applying—I understand that is two or more applications—and those companies with a tax loss which could not apply at the moment for the 150 per cent. The government has taken those on from the committee; and we believe that is a step forward.

We announced on 6 December a measure as part of our innovation statement to chop out what is called gravedigging. We believe that was an appropriate decision to stop this process. However, we believe that those claims that have been lodged with the department since then should be dealt with. We do not think you should arbitrarily knock them out. Maybe the minister could enlighten us on how many of those claims there are at the moment.

There has also been some confusion about whether a claim lodged has also been registered at the same time. I am not certain about the situation just because a claim has not been registered. But if it has been lodged and if it has been receipted that it has been received in the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism, to us that means it has been received and it ought to be dealt with under the guidelines laid down on 6 December.

We believe that our amendment means that those who, in good faith, have lodged their application after 6 December, when we announced the new guidelines, should have their day with the department, knowing full well that there are strict guidelines and that a number of them probably will not succeed. We believe that to just knock them all out holus-bolus, other than the two categories the government has accepted from its own senators, is still unfair.

We believe that all applications that have been lodged should get their day with the department to see whether they are eligible or not. To just, by legislation, knock them out after they have already complied with rules laid down again has an element of retrospectivity which we do not believe, in this case, is fair.