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Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Page: 3147

Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (1:28 PM) —in reply—I thank Senator Brandis and Senator Stott Despoja for their contributions to the debate. The Judiciary Amendment Bill 2008 is the government’s response to the issues raised by the High Court’s 2003 decision in British American Tobacco v Western Australia. In that case, the High Court held that provisions in WA law containing a special notice requirement and limitation period for actions against the Crown in Western Australia were not applied by section 79 of the Judiciary Act 1903, when the proceedings were in the federal jurisdiction.

The Judiciary Amendment Bill 2008 responds to the High Court decision in the BAT case by amending section 79 of the Judiciary Act to ensure that, as far as possible, state and territory laws related to the recovery of invalid state and territory taxes apply in proceedings in the federal jurisdiction for the recovery of those taxes. Examples of the state and territory laws that may apply include special, short limitation periods, notice provisions and antiwindfall provisions. The purpose of these laws is to prevent claims for the recovery of invalid state and territory taxes being brought years after the tax has been paid. Such claims could have far-reaching consequences for state and territory government budgeting.

The Judiciary Amendment Bill gives increased certainty to state and territory governments in the management of their finances and is consistent with what was thought to be the situation prior to the High Court’s decision. By advancing this bill, the Australian government is implementing recommendations of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It is an example of the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to working cooperatively with the states and territories through the SCAG process to achieve common goals. The previous government did not address the issues raised by the High Court’s decision in the British American Tobacco case, despite it being on the SCAG agenda for over four years. The Rudd Labor government has acted promptly to introduce these amendments, which resolve these serious issues for the states and territories, and I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.