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Wednesday, 20 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - The bill is the outcome of a conference and an agreement between Commonwealth and State taxation authorities. The several Treasurers and their taxation advisers, in the conferences which were held to frame this uniform taxation measure, gave very careful consideration to the issue which has been raised in this discussion, and I am advised that any alteration of the provisions would be objectionable, because it would be a departure from the agreement made; moreover, it would not meet the wishes of Senator Collings, and I do not think I could provide a satisfactory definition of the words "religious, scientific, charitable, or public educational institution." Those who have practised law know that there are thousands of pages of controversial matter concerning these words. The Commissioner of Taxation himself would prefer to depend on the legal interpretation given to this provision rather than include in the clause a definition which by means of some legal subterfuge, might be evaded. I am also advised that Senator Leckie's suggestion would, if adopted, react unfavorably against many missions that are conducted in this country, the profits from which are sent abroad to forward missionary activities. The problem is a very complex one, and while I admit that there is an element of unfairness in the business activities of some of these semireligious organizations, I can assure the committee that under the law as it stands, if the Commissioner of Taxation has any doubt as to the character of the business conducted by these bodies he does not hesitate to- levy taxation. I am quite sure that if Senator Collings were surrounded by the cranks to whom he referred, and claimed exemption from income tax, he would find the Commissioner adamant. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the suggestion made by Senator Leckie, and I ask the committee to pass the clause as it stands.

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