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Thursday, 12 March 1998
Page: 1105

Mr BEDDALL (9:59 AM) —by leave—I rise to support the comments of the Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit particularly on the review of the Tax Law Improvement Bill (No. 2) 1997 . As has been the case in the long history of the JCPAA, as it is now, this recommendation and report are unanimous across party lines. I am happy to make some remarks as I have had a long interest in capital gains tax particularly, as members would be aware, in the small business area.

This bill, as outlined by the chairman, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Charles), contains important clarification of capital gains tax provisions. The tax law improvement project, commonly known as TLIP, was formed in 1993 to rewrite the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 in plain English. In 1996, attention was directed to an important area of tax policy, that is, capital gains tax. Subsequently, the Tax Law Improvement Bill (No. 2) 1997 was introduced into this House. The bill was then referred to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit for its consideration. As usual, the government allowed little time for due consideration. This put stress on staff, committee members and, in particular, those wishing to make submissions. However, a number of public hearings were held—I was pleased to see that a round table format was adopted—in which all participants were able to raise their concerns or as many concerns as possible.

In February this year, a half-day public hearing was held to enable discussion of the material released as government amendments. All members of the sectional committee firmly believe that the tax law rewrite will undoubtedly result in better law for taxpayers, but members of the committee felt that there was a rising level of disquiet in the tax community of the TLIP team's inability to deal with policy issues—in particular, small `p' policy issues.

I will now turn to one of the recommendations which the committee resolved. Recommendation No. 4 states:

When the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is asked to review future Tax Law Improvement Project legislation, all of the proposed legislation and associated consequential and transitional provisions should be introduced into the Parliament together and the Committee is given adequate time for a thorough review.

There was some debate in the committee that the haste in introducing the bill had led to inadequate consultation. Whilst there is some strong merit in this argument, the committee did not support the recommendation that the bill should be delayed further. The committee firmly believes that taxpayers should not have to wait any longer for legislation which is designed to be clearer and which will reduce compliance costs.

I look forward to further developments to legislation which will assist the development of better law for the Australian taxpayers. Like the rest of the committee, I thank all those who have contributed and the staff for their contributions. I commend the report to the House.