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Tuesday, 30 November 1965

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) .- in reply - Mr. Speaker, with the utmost respect I find it difficult - indeed, impossible - to accept the arguments adduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). He said, so far as I understood him, two things: First, that Parliament is not really qualified to do this kind of job. I hope that I do not put it too bluntly, but he referred to the distinguished composition of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, known as the Ligertwood Committee, and said, directly or by implication, that it would not be possible for Parliament to bring to bear on this kind of problem the technical knowledge that the Ligertwood Committee had. This is to carry things a long way. If it is true that Parliament is not qualified technically to consider this matter, there would be many other matters that Parliament could not consider. For example, there would be questions of defence expenditure. Can the Parliament say whether this or that kind of ship that might be proposed should be acquired by expenditure under one of the votes to come before the House? Can Parliament really express a view on this? Pursue the thing further and further and you come to the conclusion that Parliament might as well go out of business as it is not technically qualified to deal with all the expenditure which it authorises. This argument takes us so far that it takes us to the end of Parliament, My argument is a kind of reductio ad absurdum.

Mr Harold Holt - The straw man? That is not what I said.

Mr TURNER - A straw man. I am sorry if I misunderstood the right honorable gentleman, but perhaps I put it too strongly. I thought his emphasis upon the qualifications of the Ligertwood Committee was set in contradistinction to the lack of qualifications that a Parliamentary committee might have.

Mr Harold Holt - I do not want to be misunderstood, nor would the honorable gentleman wish to misrepresent me, but I said that even with those qualifications, which I do not think anyone would challenge, it took the Ligertwood Committee the best part of 18 months to produce a report for us to consider.

Mr TURNER - I am not quite clear that I fully understood what I thought was the honorable gentleman's first argument; but now we come to the second argument which, perhaps, I did understand more clearly. This argument related to the time involved in going through a matter of this complexity. The Ligertwood Committee took many months to consider these matters. Therefore, says the right honorable gentleman, Parliament would take many months. But even conceding - I am not sure that he did concede - Parliament would have the capacity to deal with these matters, the fact remains, and perhaps this is the best answer, that the committee of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) did give consideration to quite a large part of the field and came up with amendments which I understand the right honorable gentleman is prepared to accept. It did this in a very short time - I believe in eight meetings. In the course of the eight meetings this untechnical body - although I do not accept that it is - was able to come up with a number of amendments. I am not sure how many amendments were brought forward, but there would have been a score or more, and the Government has been prepared to accept them.

This does not suggest to me, therefore, that a Parliamentary committee would take either a great deal of time or be unable to come up with amendments which would be acceptable, because this has happened. The right honorable gentleman may say that this is true of only a limited part of the field. I do not think he has been quite fair about this. If I have not been fair, perhaps he has not been fair either. One does become carried away in the heat of one's argument, one way or the other; but he has read out the terms of reference of the Ligertwood Committee - the whole field of income tax evasion. I am not suggesting anything as far reaching as this. In fact, last year the right honorable gentleman came forward with certain amendments which I do not suppose covered the whole field of the Ligertwood Report. If they did cover the whole field, they did so in certain ways by means of certain sections that were introduced in the amending act. I am glad that the right honorable gentleman gave an undertaking that those matters would be brought before the Parliament at a later date for careful and detailed consideration. This is that later date, but this Bill docs not cover all those matters; it covers only some of them. So it appears to me that he has not carried out the whole of his assurance to the House.

Although it is true that in relation to the short title of the Bill it would be possible to go back to those matters, I do not seek to do more than go back to those matters in relation to which he promised that there would be detailed consideration. I argue because of what has been done in respect of amendments to part of the field that this can be done in respect of the somewhat larger field. I think he exaggerated when he quoted the terms of reference of the Ligertwood Committee as if the Parliament were being invited to consider all those matters all over again. But even if it did consider them again, the ground has all been broken. Not only has the Ligertwood Committee reported but its report has been reduced into the terms of an act of Parliament. So we do not really start right from the beginning as the Ligertwood Committee did. In any event, I do not admit that we have to go back to the whole subject matter of the Ligertwood Committee. I fear that I am not convinced by what the right honorable gentleman has said.

I should like to say a final word about the argument of my friend, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). He said that because a bill was passed last week imposing a penalty rate of 10s. in the £1 on all superannuation funds, unless they can escape through certain gateways that are provided in this legislation, he is unable to support my amendment. The Bill now before the House deals with the nature of those gateways. I presume that this tax will not be imposed today or tomorrow; the payment of this tax will happen at some time after the end of the financial year. I suggest that a select committee would report by, say, 31st March. I pluck that date out of the air, but that seems fairly reasonable. The honorable member for Sturt surely should consider, looking at this Bill, whether the gateways which he considers are inadequate should be enlarged. I should have thought my honorable friend would have scrutinised this legislation with a view to seeing whether those gateways could be enlarged in conformity with his ideas. I do not necessarily support his ideas.

The best means of scrutinising the legislation would be through a select committee. He certainly will not have the opportunity in a Committee of the Whole which, as I said earlier, is something of a farce. I should have thought that he would have grasped the opportunity of machinery which would give him the opportunity to see whether the gateways could be enlarged. Indeed, he has given every reason why this should happen. He has quoted a letter that he has received from representatives of the reputable superannuation funds in which they say that they wish to make further representations. A select committee would have the opportunity to hear evidence and to hear what those representations are, and perhaps to question Treasury officials as to precisely what would be the effect of doing what the superannuation funds wish to be done, whether they would make the gateways too wide, and so forth. So I should think that my honorable friend could have supported me.

However, as I said at the outset, 1 aim concerned rather with pointing the way to machinery that can be used not only on this but also on other occasions. I can understand that this has been sprung upon the Treasurer at short notice. He has had only 10 days notice of this. I understand that we are getting towards the end of a session and that he is anxious to press this matter through the House to finality. This is all understandable. Nor, perhaps, has the Opposition, despite what the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said, had an opportunity to put this matter before its caucus. It may be that the Opposition is bound by rules of this kind. If so, I regret it because I believe that this would be a great opportunity for the Opposition to decide that it would like to participate in the work of legislation, the scrutiny of difficult and complex bills by means of machinery which would be apt for the purpose. I should have hoped that perhaps the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) might have said: " Never mind the Party caucus" - that is, if any member of his party can ever say that - "This is so obviously a thing that ought to be supported by this side of the House and I will support it." However, he has not said this. I do not want to delay the House. I am not talking for the sake of talking. I am speaking because I think this is a matter of great principle. I have said all thatI can usefully say upon it at this stage, but I hope to give the House opportunities later on other occasions of having another look at this matter when all members on both sides have had an opportunity to see the force that is in it.

Question resolved in the negative.

In Committee.

Clauses 1 to4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 5.

After section 6 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - " 6a. - (I.) For the purposes of this Act-

(a)   a right of a person or of his dependants to receive superannuation benefits from a fund shall be deemed to have ceased at a particular time (whether before or after the commencement of this section) if, by virtue of the terms and conditions applicable to the fund at that time, a right (including a contingent right) of the person, or of his dependants, as the case may be, to an amount that has accrued or could accrue from the fund ceased at that time otherwise than by payment of that amount to the person or his dependants; and

(b)   where a right of a person or of his depen- dants to receive superannuation benefits from a fund has ceased at any time (whether before or after the commencement of this section)-the amount of those benefits shall be deemed to have been so much of the amount that was included in the fund at that time for the purpose of making provision for superannuation benefits for the person or his dependants as was not required for the purpose of providing for the person or his dependants superannuation benefits (including benefits payable at that time) the right to receive which had not ceased at or before that time.

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