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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) . - On behalf of the Opposition I indicate that we do not support the proposal for a select committee at this stage. It is quite true - and I repeat what I said on another occasion in this debate - that there is no more suitable bill for investigation by a select committee than this. But a select committee on this Bill, in my view would have no chance of completing its thorough work in short order. I should regard the fixing of a date such as 31st March next year for completion of the committee's work as being of very short order. I invite the Senate to consider that it took the Ligertwood Committee, comprised of experts, some 18 months to prepare its report. It has taken the Commonwealth Government, with all the resources that it has at its disposal, some three years to bring up this Bill. I advert to the fact that consideration of the multiplicity of transactions which would need to be considered to do justice to a bill of this nature would take a very long time. It would want very leisurely consideration. If the Senate were to appoint a select committee to review taxation laws generally and took some years of study over the matter, that would be a work which would be well worth while. There is not very much purpose in looking at this aspect of the matter alone. Whilst I indicated that I favoured a select committee and that this was a bill suitable for reference to a select committee, I also put another proposition exceedingly strongly. I said how concerned the Opposition was that people were still allowed to avoid tax to the tune of £14 million or more per annum. I stressed the point that there had been altogether far too much delay up to date.

The Opposition has already made a firm decision that the Bill should come into operation. If there are defects in it they will emerge and we will examine them when they arise. But I think it is also fair to the body of taxpayers upon whom this particular measure will impact that it should come into law soon so that, as least, they may have on the statute book, in the form of this Bill, a guide for their activities.

Whilst there may be matters that are left to the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation - as indeed there are - I have already expressed the view of the Opposition that we are prepared to trust his fairness. With those thoughts in mind I reject the motion at this time. However, if in the New Year when Parliament reassembles somebody proposes a scheme to review these aspects, or any other aspects, of income tax Jaw, with ample time to devote the necessary attention to it, then I will certainly recommend to my party that that proposal 6hould be supported. But the Opposition is strongly of the opinion that after the delay, and having regard to the evils aimed at, this legislation should be passed without further delay.

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