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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2250

Senator PATTERSON (11.24 a.m.) —To make things simpler for Senator Crowley: we know when we are beaten and, from discussions outside the chamber, I realised that the Democrats would not support our amendment. I think that is outrageous because the implication here is legislation by announcement or by press release.

  That is something we have always opposed and for which—I might stand to be corrected—we have had the support of the Democrats. I remember an occasion some time ago where there was a problem with the Taxation Act. It related to incentives in the way of prizes for people involved in selling programs—for example, people selling tupperware—for selling a certain amount of product. An announcement was made by the then Treasurer, Mr Keating, that such prizes would be subject to taxation. At the time of that announcement people had already received prizes thinking that they would not attract tax. They suddenly found that their $3,000 trip overseas, or whatever, attracted tax. The government wanted this new provision to be effective from the date of its announcement. The coalition thought that was outrageous.

  With a reasonable government people should be able to assume that if something is l-a-w law—with this government that does not mean much; we only have to look at the promised tax breaks before the last election—what it is and the date from which it will operate will be made known publicly. That way people would have no excuse for not knowing what the law is. This government operates in such a way that it makes an announcement about proposed legislation but the legislation itself does not come into force for years. For that reason, people have to be aware of every government announcement. Not all people go to financial advisers—who would be expected to be on top of what the government is doing and the changes it is bringing in—but they are still supposed to know about decisions such as this one.

  It is not a good precedent to be saying that the legislation is not retrospective if the government has made an announcement about its introduction. The government could be making announcements all over the place and introducing the legislation years later with people being expected to act in accordance with the proposed legislation from the date of the announcement.

  That is why we believe that this legislation should be effective from 1994 and not from the date of the announcement in 1992. While a starting date of 1992 is better than nothing, the Democrats are basing their decision to oppose our amendment on an incorrect premise. In the worst of all worlds we will accept their amendment. If it would make things easier to put our amendment first, have it defeated and then put the Democrats' amendment, I would be happy to do so if we could do it by leave.