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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2204


Senator ROBERT RAY(10.32) —I was a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. Senator Harradine raised the point that the Committee lacked diligence, if you like, in its approach to the matter because we did not consider the employees or the insurance aspects of it. Senator Harradine would have had adequate opportunity, as he was in the chamber when the reference was made, to add that as a reference if he so desired. Further, the Committee was given a very limited time in which to report. I know that at the time Senator Harradine opposed the Committee meeting on parliamentary sitting days. We did not have much time other than to look at the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2).

I do not necessarily extol the virtues of the Finance and Government Operations Committee on being able to come back with this report. I see nothing particularly glorious in it. I think Senator Townley demonstrated today that basically his mind was made up on the issue before he attended the meeting. I guess I was not that far behind him in that regard. I guess the reference of Bills to committees in these circumstances fulfils a couple of functions. First, it allows people to get the heat off them at the time and send the matter away and, secondly, apparently it allows people to reinforce their prejudices by interpreting the evidence that comes forward so as to support those prejudices.

One of the things that concerns me about these rushed inquiries is that if one has long term commitments, as I had earlier this week, one may be placed in the position I was in, in that I was not able to attend the final Committee meeting during which it made its final deliberations. I do not regard that as satisfactory. I do not criticise the Committee for that. I think that if the Senate is continually to refer legislation to committees it should set some sort of timetable that is realistic. On the issue itself and the question of who is affected by it, I simply reiterate my view that retrospectivity is a weapon against tax evasion and avoidance. It is the best weapon known if it is provided consistently. If it is provided inconsistently it is no weapon at all. This chamber has ensured that it is an inconsistent weapon and, therefore, not an effective one.