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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2572


Senator SIDDONS(10.22) —The Australian Democrats have a great deal of sympathy for the various problems associated with the new taxation package as outlined by Senator Messner. This whole tax reform package has been a very divisive issue in the community and it still is. Tax reform is a very great problem; it has been bypassed and shelved by progressive governments virtually for the last 30 years. At least the Hawke Government had the courage to grasp the nettle. I doubt whether any future government will ever attempt any fundamental reform of the taxation laws.

The point I want to make is very simply this: There has been the National Taxation Summit at which no agreement at all was reached in the light of the conflicting attitudes of various sectors of our society. We have had nearly 12 months' debate on the tax issue. It is the Democrats' view that the issue is so fundamental and so divisive that there is only one place in which this tax question can be debated and that is in the Parliament itself. I believe that it is impossible to put the enormous responsibility for coming up with recommendations on any changes to the tax system on a Senate committee-the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. It would be divisive; it would put responsibility on that Committee way beyond its normal area of responsibility. Apart from anything else, I am advised by the Chairman of the Finance and Government Operations Committee that the Committee is already very heavily committed with other references.

In essence, there are still many problems with the taxation legislation. While various tax Bills were before the Senate the Democrats moved amendments to put responsibility on the Commissioner of Taxation to advise taxpayers as to the law as the Australian Taxation Office saw it. We did what we could, when the legislation was passing through the Parliament, to protect the rights of the individual taxpayer. It is a great pity that the Opposition did not liaise much more closely with the Australian Democrats when these Bills were before the Parliament because, if it had, I am sure that we could have moved many more constructive amendments to overcome many of the problems that are confronting us today. These problems remain. They are the responsibility of the government of the day, not the responsibility of the Finance and Government Operations Committee. So, for this one fundamental reason, the Democrats cannot support the Opposition's motion.