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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1469

Senator MESSNER(4.33) —I wish to make the Opposition's position on clause 20 particularly clear. Of course, it is true that my colleague Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has already spelled out our position during the second reading debate. However, I want to emphasise and refer to a couple of the remarks Senator Harradine made. Firstly, I believe that there is an important issue at stake. It is, if honourable senators like, an issue of symbolism but it is one that identifies very clearly in the public mind the legal and proper status of marriage in the community. It is a matter, without relating it to questions of religious scruple or principle or ethic, of law having been established on that basis. Consequently orthodoxy has been regarded as a basic principle.

As Minister Assisting the Treasurer I had quite a large number of representations on behalf of the Treasurer on this matter. I recall very vividly the arguments put in favour of the kind of action which the Government has taken . I also recall very vividly the kind of comparison that was made with the social security legislation. Indeed, I think it might have been Senator Grimes who through interjection at an earlier stage in the course of this tax debate made some reference to the matter that indeed, if the principle of de facto relationships were acknowledged for the purposes of social security legislation, it was consistent to apply it in the taxation area. I follow Senator Harradine's comments in that regard and agree wholeheartedly with him that there should not be positive encouragement in favour of the de facto relationship as would exist had the social security legislation not been drawn in the way it has been. It seems to me that both sets of principles and the acknowledgement of the two matters are quite separate. Indeed, it is quite possible and very easy to make a distinction between the two.

Like Senator Harradine I look to the Government for some further comment about the guidelines that would be applied by the Commissioner of Taxation in this respect because there is, as I think the Minister would no doubt acknowledge, considerable area for possible abuse here, apart from anything else. Of course, there is also the principle of intrusiveness. I think that Senator Grimes in the course of his earlier remarks indicated that the Taxation Commissioner would be applying the same provisions of inspection and intrusiveness as would the Director-General of the Department of Social Security.

Senator Coleman —No, in actual fact, Senator, he said as that which pertains in other departments, because there is more than one.

Senator MESSNER —Fair enough. I acknowledge that. The point I want clarified is whether this is so and to what degree it will vary because there is a very considerable concern in the community about the application of those very intrusive guidelines as they apply today, especially in relation to the Department of Social Security. Quite apart from that there is, as Senator Harradine has spelled out, a question of whether this will be more or less open to very extensive abuse.