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Wednesday, 2 November 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It is usual to give to income tax Commissioners very inquisitorial power. It is also usual in the Act granting such power to insure secrecy.

Senator McGregor - Every public officer is sworn to secrecy.

Senator ST LEDGER - The Minister's mind travels too fast; I wish he would wait to hear what I have to say. Sub-clause 1 contemplates a report to Parliament. Suppose that a number of these cases should occur. What is to prevent any member of Parliament from getting the papers in any case, or cases, tabled and printed ?

Senator Findley - Suppose that an injustice had been done to a man, for his own satisfaction he would want to see the papers.

Senator ST LEDGER - I only raise the question to point out the position of a man who is hard up, and makes an appeal ad miscricordiam for leniency to be extended to him, and at the same time has to run the risk of the case being dragged before Parliament, and made known to every member of the community.

Senator Rae - If there is a fair reason for making the appeal, there is no disgrace to the man.

Senator ST LEDGER - If there is no secrecy, why indulge in humbug? There is no fairness or secrecy about the provision. What encouragement is it to a man to state his hard case when he knows that any member of Parliament may drag into daylight any number of such cases? Members of Parliament are human, even those following the Government. Here is a nice means for any human politician, even on this side of the Chamber, to take it out of a man, or a number of men, if he likes to do so.

Senator Findley - What object would he gain by " serving it out " to men?

Senator ST LEDGER - What object has any vindictive human being to serve but the gratification of his vindictiveness ? Are politicians above it?

Senator Findley - I should be very sorry to think that any member of this Parliament would call for papers in a spirit of vindictiveness.

Senator ST LEDGER - What is the use of the Minister trying to put on a halo and wings before us? We know that they do not suit him. We know that over and over again when we are in a warm mood we do not stand upon nice distinctions.- Sometimes we take the gloves off, subject to the ruling of Mr. President, or the Chairman of Committees. I repeat that, under this clause, every member of Parliament will be able to " take it out " of a land-owner who has been released from payment of the tax. We are all human, and it is just as well te- recognise it. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to postpone the consideration of the clause, with a view to affording us time to frame a provision which will insure that the decisions of this independent Board shall be guarded with secrecy. From the Income Tax Acts of the various States, we can easily shape a provision, by means of which our object may be attained. The clause evidences ait intention to extend mercy to the taxpayer in case of hardship. I trust that that mercy will he extended to him without exposing him to humiliation if ever he should come into conflict with any representative of the people in either branch of the Legislature. Will the Government postpone the clause?

Senator McGregor - What a request for the honorable senator to make after he has bad neatly a month in which to frame such a provision !

Senator ST LEDGER - I have had a great deal to do, apart from looking into the Bills which have been submitted to this Parliament. What sort of an answer is that for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to give me? If my contention be a just one, the fact that I have had a month to look into the matter does not affect the position.

Senator Millen - Would the VicePresident of the Executive Council have given any better reception to an amendment by the honorable senator if it had been printed ?

Senator ST LEDGER - I ask _ the Vice-President of the Executive Council to afford the Committee time to frame an amendment which will insure that the decisions of the Board appointed to investigate any case of alleged hardship shall remain secret. He knows perfectly well that, as the clause stands, information in that connexion will be constantly asked for by honorable senators. If Senator Stewart saw that there was case after case in which u remission had been made of the tax, would he not desire to ascertain all particulars relating to them?

Senator Fraser - I would as soon trust Senator Stewart as I would some other honorable senators.

Senator ST LEDGER - 1 dare say that I should be wise in anticipating a negative reply even to this modest request.

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