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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2573

Senator COATES(10.26) —I also oppose the motion. Senator Messner is proposing a major investigation into the whole operation of the Australian Taxation Office and the various tax Acts. The only change that he had made to the motion he first moved in May is to limit it to income tax rather than all taxes, but such a reference would still be a huge job. The size of the task, if it were undertaken, would involve a committee working full time for a year or two to the exclusion of any other subject or any other parliamentary duties. Senator Messner admitted that he originally moved this motion last May as a means of stalling the tax Bills. The Senate decided otherwise at the time and defeated an amendment seeking to refer these issues to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. This motion is an attempted second bite at the cherry. I think that the Senate should make the same decision now as it made in May when the Bills were passed.

It is completely inappropriate, now that those Bills have been passed, for a committee to try to review those operations before they have had a chance to work. Senator Messner, if he wants to, can certainly try again in a year or two and move a similar motion. He should wait until there has been a year or two of experience of assessments and appeals under the new system. Now is entirely the wrong time to do such a thing. I think this is just another example of the Opposition supporting those people who want to get out of their taxation obligations. It just wants to provide another avenue for the tax whingers to get more publicity for their cause.

Senator Messner —Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I request that Senator Coates withdraw that disgraceful reference to the Opposition being supporters of tax cheats.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Giles) —Senator Messner, I do not believe that was a personal criticism.

Senator Messner —That was a reflection on the Opposition.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It was a political comment. There is no point of order.

Senator COATES —Senator Messner used the term `tax cheats', I did not. I talked about the Opposition supporting those wanting to get out of their tax obligations. I did not mention Senator Messner personally.

Senator Messner —Well, what are you talking about?

Senator COATES —He knows what I am talking about. Senator Messner tried to give us a lesson in history. He then tried to imply from that that this was unjust to taxpayers. What, of course, he forgets is that provision is made for a system of appeal which allows anybody to have his case heard in accordance with the administrative law of this country. The responsibility for any disrespect that might exist for the tax law can be laid at the door of the Opposition. The prime matter is that the Opposition disagrees with the Government's policy. The Senate committee system would be totally bogged down if we decided that every issue on which the Opposition disagreed with Government policy should be referred to a Senate committee. Certainly, there are insufficient resources to do that, but there is a principle involved and, accordingly, I oppose Senator Messner's motion.