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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8317


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (10:10): I start by thanking the secretariat for the extraordinary work they did in preparing and working on this report that we present today: Sharon Bryant, the inquiry secretary; James Rees, committee secretary; Loes Slattery, senior researcher; Dorota Cooley, office manager; and Natasha Kaleb, administrative officer. This inquiry has been going on for nearly two years, and at times, honestly, I thought we'd lost our way, so broad were the terms of reference and so broad was our interest across the committee. There were so many different areas in a time of rapid change that there were times I wondered whether we would actually come to conclusions and get a report written. I think the fact that we did is largely to do with the extraordinary efforts of an amazing bunch of people who work behind the scenes and are usually barely mentioned. The staff that we have in Parliament House are like no other. I sometimes think that every single organisation in the country should look at how this place is managed. We are supported by extraordinary people working quietly, without fanfare and largely without credit who make our jobs possible.

It is perhaps particularly necessary that we draw on all of that skill at this moment because at this point in time we are going through a time of extraordinary change, and the way that human beings over millennia have come to common conclusions, shared common views and formed a base upon which we can build new ideas is largely breaking down. In fact, the change itself is in the way we come to conclusions, so even in the committees now we have such a broad range of views that cover such a broad range of areas that it's difficult to find the common ground on which we can build.

In this inquiry, I think perhaps we saw that more than I have in others. We saw people passionately interested in the way that technology is changing and the way that people interact with the Australian Taxation Office. Whether that was about the tax office's role in being up to date or whether it was about the tax office's role in enabling others, there was an extraordinary difference in opinion there—even a difference in opinion about whether or not the move towards cash transactions will or will not increase the cash economy. There were incredible differences in our views and the areas that interested us, and that meant that, over the two years, we covered an incredibly broad range of areas and very few of them in sufficient detail to really get our teeth into what might be happening and where we might be going as a country.

So the report itself is really quite an interesting read. It covers some very important areas. I personally believe that, as I think this speech shows, if we'd settled in some smaller areas, we could have done some even better work in important areas, but it is a fine report and it's worth reading. It covers some of the areas that we face as a nation in terms of our interaction with the tax system. But once again I'd just like to thank very much the work of the secretariat and all of the staff that support us in this. You are unparalleled. Every business in the country should aspire to have an organisation as well managed as this parliament is and as our secretariats are. Thank you very much. I commend the report to the House.

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for Mackellar wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a later occasion?