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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2035


Senator WATSON (12.06 p.m.) —Given that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Senator Sherry) has received advice from the Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch) or the Parliamentary Counsel—it does not really matter what the source is; I respect the sources from which he is drawing that advice—we are prepared to give a reasonable amount of time for that advice to be put in the appropriate form and to be tabled before all senators. I think it is a little unreasonable to ask a house of review to accept these sorts of assurances prior to the passage of the bill when the government has that advice at hand and it is only a matter of time before it can be put down.

  I am prepared to wait until tomorrow and I suggest that we go through all the processes in relation to all other matters apart from the problem of terminology and the processes that are being employed, because we will be setting a precedent that could be used during budget sessions which could come back to haunt this house of review. I think it is incumbent upon us to make sure the administrative processes are correct, to make sure of the constitutional validity of the legislation.

  We are as anxious as the parliamentary secretary to clarify issues such as car parking and other relevant matters. Since this consideration is being broadcast, a number of people may be wondering what the issues are in terms of superannuation, life companies and other registered organisations. The issues revolving around the issue of requests, et cetera, concern amendments to the income tax provisions that provide deductions for expenditure incurred by life insurance companies and registered organisations in obtaining premiums which are excluded from assessable income. The purpose of the amendments is to limit the deductions to expenses incurred directly in getting the Australian income premiums which are invested to produce assessable income.

  In principle, there is no particular objection to the proposal. In the past, a number of life companies have been, we are told, claiming a number of deductions against non-assessable type income. The government is seeking to put an end to that particular practice. We understand that extensive consultations have taken place. The industry has not come to the opposition, so we assume the industry is acceding to the government's request. We have no particular problem in relation to passing this piece of the legislation. However, I come back to the need for the government to provide that advice in circumstances where that advice is certainly in conflict with that which has been given by the Clerk to the parliament.