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Wednesday, 8 June 1994
Page: 1524

Senator COOK (Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Science) (4.57 p.m.) —I will very quickly give a response, but we are getting to a point where I should acknowledge that Senator Bell has fought assiduously for his corner. He is not likely to win this debate, but he is certainly prolonging it. I hope it is not going to delay us unduly.

  Senator Bell's question asked whether or not I answered Senator Panizza's question correctly. The answer is: yes, I did answer that question correctly. We are talking about provisional tax. The nature of provisional tax is that a person estimates his or her earnings. If there is a possibility of a tax gain because of negative gearing, that is taken into account, and the person would be aware of it when the earnings are estimated. But when tax is paid, it is paid on the actual earnings. So the HECS is paid on the actual earnings. My answer, therefore, to Senator Panizza was right.

  The other question that has been asked of me is a question more in the form of an observation; nonetheless, it is a serious question by Senator Watson as to whether holiday earnings by students could be exempted. I think that broadly was the question. I have consulted with my advisers, and I can advise the committee that it may be that we do not need to do anything about this when dealing with this issue. It is not before the chamber for debate today, but it will come up in this chamber when that legislation comes forward. We will certainly have a look at the concerns that Senator Watson has raised, take them on board, give them due consideration and report on an outcome. We will deal with that at the time that debate arises. If there is a need to do anything, if we are of the opinion that something should be done, we will deal with it at that time.