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Tuesday, 2 May 1961


Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Treasurer) . - It is obvious that some members of the committee, particularly some members of the Opposition, are getting a little good, clean fun at my expense and also, I regret to say, at the expense of a very hard-worked and able body of officers who have been assisting the Parliament in the presentation of this very difficult legislation. The taxation law which applies to the life assurance companies is, as a colleague has pointed out, one of the most complicated parts of the taxation legislation. There is nothing new about that. Indeed, that position obtained during the years when honorable gentlemen opposite occupied the treasury bench.


Mr Ward - Do you understand the bill?


Mr HAROLD HOLT - Well, I think I get the general drift of it, which I doubt that the honorable gentleman opposite has attempted to get. The really significant thing about the rather slap-happy discussion of this clause is that, with the exception of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), whom I exclude, those members who have been most vocal on the clause are, I believe, the members who paid the least attention to what was going on during the second-reading stage. It is quite obvious, Sir, that these airy and, I know, humorouslyintended references to what are somewhat slightingly termed " the bureaucrats " behind us, were only flippant. I hope that the gentlemen referred to will not take seriously what was, I think, intended to be flippancy only. We all have reason to be grateful for the labour and the skill which these men bring to the task of assisting the Parliament with such problems. But I say that those who have engaged in this somewhat flippant behaviour have quite obviously not done the bill or the officers concerned the justice of reading the explanatory memorandum which was produced at some pains to assist honorable members to understand the difficult and complicated provisions of the legislation. I have in my hand an explanatory memorandum on the bill and it runs to 33 closely printed pages. Obviously clause 9 is one of the most complex of all the clauses, because the explanatory memorandum on it runs to eight pages. If there is a genuine desire for information on what the algebraic formulas set out in the bill signify, that information can be found in the pages of the explanatory memorandum.

Honorable members may ask why it is necessary to put a bill into this form. As my colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), pointed out, the people directly concerned with this legislation are taxpayers - in this instance the life assurance companies - and the Commissioner of Taxation. I can assure the committee that the actuaries of the life offices have been in consultation with the officers of the Treasury, the Life Offices Commissioner and the Taxation Branch, on the details of the legislation. Had the provisions been spelt out in words the bill would have run to several more pages. These people are accustomed to dealing with problems of this kind expressed in the manner in which they are expressed in the bill. I have had no complaints from them as to the manner of the drafting of these provisions.

The amendment which I have proposed is designed not so much to clarify drafting as to increase, without the need to establish a separate statutory fund, the opportunities for obtaining the tax concessions for which the bill provides. I am not surprised that honorable gentlemen find the detailed provisions difficult to follow, but, after all, we are concerned, both as a parliament and, at this stage, as a committee,principally with the substance of what the bill sets out to achieve and with ensuring that the measure produces that result. I have not heard anybody argue seriously that this measure does not produce the result which honorable members, voting as the House of Representatives, have already endorsed without a division. Having given an assurance which I do not believe any honorable member opposite will seriously challenge, I hope that we can proceed with the remaining clauses of the bill, Sir.







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