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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 421

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) (9:34 AM) —by leave—I wish to make a short statement in reference to the Senate return to order motion from Senator Joyce for the production of the final report on Australia’s future tax system. The return to order specified that the production of the final report of the Australia’s Future Tax System Review Panel be no later than 9.30 am today. The return to order relates to the independent tax review. The government is currently examining the report of the independent tax review and, as we have previously indicated, we will release it at a later stage in early 2010 after due consideration and with an initial response.

The independent tax review panel received over 1,500 written submissions, over 4,700 letters, held public ‘town hall’ meetings and a tax conference, and had many discussions with various stakeholder groups. As the Liberal-National Party opposition are very aware from their time in government, a report of this size and magnitude requires extensive consideration and releasing the review without an initial government response would only serve to unnecessarily cause public uncertainty.

It is of course no surprise that the opposition are playing what is a political game—this time in the Senate—with something as important as tax reform. The government has always said it will release the independent tax review in early 2010, and that is what we will do. The government has only had the report of the independent tax review for six weeks, and that includes the Christmas and New Year period. We also note that the Liberal-National parties refused to release a report they received in 2008 on a comprehensive examination of Australia’s tax system, commonly known, I think, as the Ergas review. So, at the same time as demanding the government release its important review, they refused to do the same.

As an aside, and to provide some useful information to the opposition shadow finance minister, who has complained he wanted immediate access to the independent tax review report so that he can ‘better understand the future revenue of the Commonwealth’, or words to that effect, for Senator Joyce’s benefit I have here copies of two important documents, the 2009-10 Budget Paper No. 2 and the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which set out the forward estimates of Commonwealth revenue, which would be of assistance to the senator. These are the base documents for government economic data, particularly revenue in this case, which is of importance to Senator Joyce. They have the most comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed information, and these are the documents on which, certainly to my direct knowledge, all oppositions have at least based the initial workings for the calculation of government revenue going forward.

In conclusion, I inform the Senate the government will not release the final report of the independent tax review panel at this stage.