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Monday, 23 June 2008
Page: 5601

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (4:04 PM) —in reply—I would like to thank the members for their contributions to the debate. I welcome the opposition’s support for this uncontroversial but nonetheless important bill. The Judiciary Amendment Bill 2008 is the government’s response to the issues raised by the 2003 decision of the High Court of Australia in British American Tobacco v Western Australia, and many of those who contributed to the debate commented on that decision. It is an example of the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to cooperative federalism. The previous government had not acted on this in the four years since the British American Tobacco decision, as was pointed out a little while ago by the member for Wills. Yet it was a decision with the potential for a grave impact on state and territory government finances.

The bill amends section 79 of the Judiciary Act to make clear that nothing in the Judiciary Act precludes special state and territory laws applicable to the recovery of invalid state and territory taxes from applying where the relevant proceedings are in a federal jurisdiction. This was thought to be the situation prior to the High Court’s decision. It is highly desirable that there be a special short limitation period applicable to proceedings to recover invalid state and territory taxes. Otherwise, claims could be made many years after a tax has been paid, with potentially far-reaching consequences for state and territory government budgeting. The amendments resolve this important issue for the state and territory governments. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.