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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2200

Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE(10.10) —In speaking to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations I want to seek guidance from the Senate as to how it wishes to debate the report. A Bill to which the report refers is still in the Senate. I wonder whether this report, together with its recommendations and the dissenting reports will be dealt with at the time the legislation is before us or whether we wish to refer to the recommendations this morning. I have noted the recommendations with interest. I have also noted with some interest the dissenting reports by Senator the Rt Hon. R. G. Withers, Senator Jack Evans and Senator Michael Townley. It is of interest to me that Senator Jack Evans, in his dissenting report-of course he can speak for himself at the appropriate time-states:

Whilst agreeing with the body of the Report and whole-heartedly supporting recommendation 2, I dissent from recommendation 1 for the following reasons:

1. Recommendation 1 does not in my opinion, follow logically from the body of evidence in the Report.

That is a very significant statement to be made in a dissenting report. In his opinion a recommendation carried by the Committee does not follow logically from the body of evidence in the report. In his dissenting report he also states:

Before the Parliament is forced to consider such retrospective tax legislation it is imperative that all existing avenues for reclamation of lost taxes be pursued by the Commissioner of Taxation.

That was the very point on which the Opposition thought that this matter ought to be referred to the Committee. When we debated the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984 we referred to the very precise legislation that was in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation throughout all the years in question to deal with superannuation funds set up for the benefit of employees. He had precise legislation under which, at any time, he could disallow the section 23F advantages given to those funds and the proprietors of the companies who set them up. We could not understand why, with the various avenues that he had available to him under the Income Tax Assessment Act, he was not able to deal with the matters that were raised by this retrospective legislation.

I note with some interest also the dissenting report of Senator Withers. He draws attention to some of the evidence and the response of the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr O'Reilly, to the precise question that was raised by him. He states :

I find it extraordinary that an independent statutory officer charged with the administration of the taxation laws of Australia should be taking notice of what 'came through loud and clear' from the Government of the day.

The Income Tax Assessment Act gives powers to the Commissioner of Taxation to collect, fairly and equitably, taxes from the people of Australia in accordance with the law. For him to use, as a reason for not taking action, or for taking particular action, noises that were coming through from the government of the day, ignores the law which he must administer on behalf of the Commonwealth.

The Senate Committee in this instance was able to do precisely what the Senate had asked it to do-that is, take a reference quickly, hear evidence, deal with it and bring forward its recommendations to the Senate. We are indebted to the Finance and Government Operations Committee for the way it has discharged its responsibility. As I suggested at the outset, I presume this report will be debated more fully when the Bill is again put on the Notice Paper for debate in this place. At that time it is obvious that we will have to dispose of the Bill and place on record our own reactions to the Senate Committee's report and recommendations by the way we deal with the legislation. I commend the Committee for its work and the way it has assisted the Senate in dealing with this legislation.