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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) .- The treatment of soldiers under this measure was considered by the special committee, and its decision on the matter was unanimous. The only other comment I wish to mate at this juncture is that the easy passage of these two measures, which otherwise would have been highly contentious, is an excellent illustration of the usefulness of our present committee system. So long as such committees are representative of both Houses, and, as far as possible, of all parties in the Parliament, they promise to do very useful work.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 -

Section 20 of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - (2.) Where an administrator has not made to the Commissioner a full and true disclosure of all the material facts necessary for the making of an assessment, and there has been an avoidance of duty, the Commissioner may -

(a)   Where he is of opinion that the avoidance of duty is due to fraud or evasion - at any time; and amend the assessment by making such alterations therein or additions thereto as he thinks necessary to correct an error in calculation or a mistake of fact or to prevent avoidance of duty, as the ease may be.

SenatorMcLEAY (South Australia - Leader of the Opposition) [3.25]. - Recently in Adelaide I received a deputation of taxation experts who complained of the practice developing in the taxation department of going back into the earnings of taxpayers for considerable periods. They cited investigations which had gone back as far as nineteen years. Having regard to the present high rates of taxes, the commissioner evidently is after all he can get. In cases of the kind I have mentioned, the taxpayer very often has no records for all of the periods to be re viewed. There is evidence in this Parliament of a bureaucratic tendency to reverse the established order by placing the onus of proof on the accused. That has happened on many occasions. Honorable senators will recall that when I was chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee that body drew the attention of the Senate to the growth of this tendency,and showed that power in that direction was being abused in somecases. This trend is not peculiar to Australia. The same spirit has crept into legislation in other countries. The subject is admirably dealt with by Viscount Hewart in his book The New Despotism.

In view of the tendency of the commissioner to go back into the earnings of taxpayers for such long periods as I have mentioned, I contend that some limitation should be provided in that respect. For that reason I move -

That, in proposed new sub-section (2.)of new section 20, the words " at any time" be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words" within twelve years from the date upon which the duty became due and payable under the assessment".

Twelve years is double the period fixed by the Statute of Limitations and I consider that is a reasonable term to fix in this case. I hope that the Minister will accept my amendment.

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