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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr SPOONER (Robertson) .- I draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to the position thatnow exists with regard to a regulation which may affect Treasury receipts. I refer to Statutory Rule No. 76 of 1942, which gave an intimation to the public of a proposal to introduce a tax on profits exceeding 4 per cent. I have no intention of discussing the merits of that proposal; I merely draw attention to the position that exists owing to the non-repeal of two sets of regulations that were brought into force earlier in the year. The first was No. 76, the effect of which was to warn companies not to dispose of their assets in excess of 4 per cent, of such profits. The regulation was amended subsequently by Statutory Rule No. 110 of 1942, which stated -

This regulation shall not come into operation until a date not earlier than the first day of July, 1042, fixed in that behalf by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament or by an Act of the Parliament.

That is still the position. As these regulations stand, there is an intimation that a tax may come into operation as the result of a resolution or act of Parliament. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made official statements to the effect that the Government will not proceed with this taxing proposal. In those circumstances, the regulations should be repealed. I take this view because the warning implicit in these regulations will stand until they are repealed. No official announcement, even by the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, can have any effect so far as the obligations and responsibilities of companies are concerned. I admit that the regulations and the plan that was contemplated can not operate unless there is a resolution or an act of Parliament. However, the warning effect of the regulations will be operative until they are withdrawn. If the Government changed its mind at any time and if a resolution of both Houses or an act of Parliament were passed for the purpose of introducing a tax upon profits in excess of 4 per cent., the effect would be that companies that had distributed more than 4 per cent, since the 1st July, 1942, would have done so wrongly, and with full knowledge of the warning contained in the regulations, which are still in operation. The companies would not be able to plead successfully that they had considered themselves to be liberated from their obligation by reason of announcements made by the head of the Government or by the Treasurer. The position should be clarified, because the existence of the regulations is a source of considerable worry to a number of companies.

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