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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 231


Senator Murray asked the Minister representing the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, upon notice, on 2 December 2004:

(1)   Does the Government regard the following as binding on the Government and the Parliament: (a) section 1-3 of A New Tax System (Goods and Services) Tax Act 1999; and (b) section 10 of A New Tax System (Commonwealth-State Financial Arrangements) Act 1999.

(2)   Has the Government and/or any minister obtained legal advice relating to the validity of, or the constitutional impact of either: (a) section 1-3 of A New Tax System (Goods and Services) Tax Act 1999; (b) section 10 of A New Tax System (Commonwealth-State Financial Arrangements) Act 1999; or (c) the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Reform of Commonwealth-State Financial Relations; if so, will the Minister provide this advice.


Senator Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1) (a)   and (b) Section 10 of A New Tax System (Commonwealth-State Financial Arrangements) Act 1999 refers to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Reform of Commonwealth-State Financial Relations (the IGA), which was signed by the Australian Government and all state and territory leaders in 1999. The IGA reconfirmed section 1-3 of A New Tax System (Goods and Services) Tax Act 1999 that all GST revenue would be provided to the states and territories, and that any changes to the rate and base of the GST would require the agreement of all states and territories. The Australian Government is committed to the IGA and hence considers section 1-3 of A New Tax System (Goods and Services) Tax Act 1999 and section 10 of A New Tax System (Commonwealth-State Financial Arrangements) Act 1999 binding.

(2) (a)   , (b) and (c) The Australian Government sought legal advice on numerous matters relating to the introduction of the GST at the time The New Tax System was being developed and has sought further legal advice on various matters related to tax reform since that time. Successive governments have adopted the practice of not disclosing the legal advice they receive. The Government does not intend to depart from that practice.

In relation to the request to provide this advice, I note that Senate Standing Order 73 prohibits questions that ask for legal opinion (Order 73(1)(j)).