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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2945


Senator MASON(5.25) —I support Senator Jack Evans's motion that the Committee report back at this stage. This is a very complicated and difficult matter which has engaged the attention of the Senate before. As Senator Evans has said, both he and I believe that, if there is an investigation into this matter by the Commissioner of Taxation and it is found for some reason or other that the Commissioner is genuinely not able to obtain recourse against these people who I firmly believe have been the most unconscionable rippers-off of the taxation system through these superannuation schemes, the retrospective element must apply. It has always been my view in this matter, as in others, that the principle of tax equity takes precedence over the question of retrospectivity. Of course, that has been the experience in other parliaments. They have come to the conclusion that with such tax schemes that is necessary.

However, I am one of those senators who voted for the reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. It is important that the Committee has studied this legislation. It is very important that all six members of the Committee agreed that it is a reasonable thing to ask the Commissioner of Taxation to try to use the existing law. Indeed, it is a fact that the principle of retrospectivity is sufficiently abhorrent for one to have recourse only as a last resort. I feel sure that the Minister and anybody on the Government side would agree with that as a matter of principle. The point is that those members of the Committee have at least acknowledged the point that it is reasonable to ask the Commissioner to attempt to use existing law. It is necessary that that attempt be made, and certainly that is what I would like to see happen. At the moment we seem to be in a bit of a procedural hassle about how this should be done. I see no reason why this matter should not come on again, perhaps even at a later hour this day. But at the moment we are considering our position. We want to have some time to move. In such an important and decisive matter, I believe that is a good reason for the Committee to support Senator Evans's motion.