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Friday, 6 December 1935

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [10.57].- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the bill, whose chief benefit to the taxpayers will be that it will save them a lot of time and worry, is to provide one self-contained classified and numerically itemized schedule, covering the whole of the sales tax exemptions, in place of the many unclassified and disjointed provisions, relating to exemptions, which are contained in the various acts, regulations and proclamations of the existing law. To-day it is almost impossible to know what is exempted and what is not. When this bill is passed there will be in the one act a handy compendium of the exemptions, and the people will know where they stand.

The enactment of the bill will effect a statutory reform of great importance and value. The existing law relating to exemptions is not classified in any ordered way, and is to be found in -

(a)   the various exemption sections of nine sales tax assessment acts as they have been amended from time to time;

(b)   the schedules to eight sales tax assessment acts as they have been amended from time to time by many acts (over twenty in number) including the various financial relief acts;

(c)   the second, third and fourth schedules to the sales tax regulations as they have been amended from time to time; and

(d)   the proclamations issued from time to time under Sales Tax Assessment Act No. 9.

Contemplating that list, one ceases to wonder why the tax hasbeen unpopular. The real wonder is that it has not led to revolution.

Senator Payne - It is a wonder that we have not had to erect additional, mental hospitals as the result of it.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The advantages accruing from the replacement of all those provisions by a single classified schedule should be selfevident. It is obvious that one consolidated and classified schedule of all exemptions, in lieu of multifarious enactments, regulations and proclamations will, in the first place, have an informative value of its own; secondly, it will save much public and departmental time and expense, and avoid inconvenience in ascertaining what goods are covered by the exemptions; and, lastly, it will greatly facilitate the issue of departmental rulings and the presentation and handling of claims for exemptions generally.

Many other advantages could be specified, but probably the most important of all will be found in the simplification of amendments of the law relating to exemptions. With a consolidated schedule in existence it is anticipated that about 90 per cent, of the work and cost involved in preparing . legislation on exemptions will be saved, and it will then be possible to present such legislation to Parliament and to the general public in a form that will be easily understood.

Upon the passage of this bill, it is proposed to print, for the convenience of the public, copies of the measure containing an index to the items in the schedule, and also a short table of contents setting out the divisions of the schedule. These divisions, which represent the broad groups into which the exemptions are classified, are as follows : -

Division I. - Agricultural machinery, implements, equipment, and materials. (Note. - This is a very broad group, which includes, various sub-groups associated with wheatfarming, sheep-farming, dairy-farming, poultry-farming, bee-keeping, fruitgrowing, dried fruit industry. &c. )

Division II. - Mining machinery and equipment.

Division III. - Fishing and pearling machinery and equipment. Division IV. - Irrigation, water supply, drainage and sewerage equipment.

Division V. - Primary products.

Division VI. - Foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco.

Division VII. - Drugs, medicines and surgical goods.

Division VIII. - Fuel, power, and light. Division IX. - Books, printed matter, and paper.

Division X. - Scientific, educational and religious goods, and works of art.

Division XI. - Goods for use by governments, representatives of governments, and public bodies.

Division XII. - Building materials.

Division XIII. - Containers.

Division XIV. - Manufactures of small businesses.

Division XV. - Miscellaneous.

The bill is a consolidation of the exemptions contained in the existing law, and is designed neither to extend nor to curtail those exemptions. Honorable senators are asked to recognize this fact, and not to look upon the bill as an opportunity to press for further exemptions, particularly as it is only a few weeks since substantial additions were made to the list of exemptions. The consolidation necessarily involved considerable alterations of the form and terms of many exemptions, but the definite assurance is given that all goods at present exempt from sales tax will continue to be exempt after the bill becomes law. Whilst it is not a part of the design of the bill to extend the exemptions now operating, many of the anomalous features of the existing law will be removed by the re-expression of a number of items to include parts, accessories, fittings, attachments, &c, of- goods already exempt, as, for' example, item 13 (2) and (3) or to cover goods . having precisely the same uses as goods already exempt, such as item 35 (117). Apart from these cases, additions to the list of exemptions have been made only where it has been found necessary to remove doubts as to the application of some existing item, such as item 7 (10), which is added solely because of the doubt as to the application of the existing exemption of " dairy utensils " ; and item 16 (1), which re-expresses the existing exemption of boats for the fishing industry to remove doubt as to whether " oars, sails," &c, are parts of boats.

The bill will be supplemented by another measure for the purpose of repealing, with suitable saving clauses, the various exemptions which are at present in force, and which will be entirely replaced by "the provisions of this bill.

This measure has been introduced! solely as a measure of reform. Its value for that purpose should be apparent. It is the result of months of the most careful and expert study. Hence, any hastily conceived amendments of its form or content, however well-intended, would possibly prove to be acts of disservice to the community. In the circumstances, it is confidently anticipated that the bill will be accepted and passed as it now stands.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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