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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2032

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (11.47 a.m.) —I seek your indulgence, Mr Chairman, before you respond to Senator Watson. I can give a little bit more information about this matter. I am not sure whether Senator Watson is questioning the entire legislation or simply the amendments which relate to the recovery of moneys from life insurance companies. As I understand it, that is what Senator Watson is questioning.

Senator Watson —The process involved, particularly with the amendments.

Senator SHERRY —And the process involved. As I said earlier—I am not sure whether Senator Coulter was in the chamber earlier when I responded in my speech to the second reading—we have had advice from the Parliamentary Counsel and from the Attorney-General's Department that we are following correct constitutional processes. Section 53 of the constitution says:

  The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.

The government's advice is that the changes may increase the burden on the people by increasing their tax liability—in this case we are talking about insurance companies and the possible loss of $5 billion in revenue to the government—and should therefore be made as requests so as to be within section 53 of the constitution. The particular amendment is made in the form of a request because the government believes, on the advice it has received, that it is constitutional to do it in that way.

  On behalf of the government I am able to indicate that we will provide in detail to the Senate the advice we have received on this issue at a later date, but we cannot provide that today. I indicate that to you, Mr Chairman, before you make your ruling.