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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator COOKE (Western Australia) . - I submit to the Committee that Senator Wright has pointed out a very definite weakness in the Bill. If we have a responsibility to set out in statutory form the rights of individual taxpayers, then Senator Wright was correct in what ho said. I believe that we should define without equivocation the rights of individual taxpayers. Even though we may have the greatest confidence in the Commissioner of Taxation, it is wrong that these matters should be referred to him for decision. As the Bill is drafted, it removes from this Parliament to the Commissioner of Taxation the duty to decide whether a certain form of tax avoidance is legitimate. The Commissioner should not have to carry that responsibility.

I should like to know from the Minister whether the Commissioner's decision can be challenged. If there is a right of challenge, is the exercise of that right to be made too expensive for the average citizen to be able to enjoy it? The Parliament should be very definite about the form of protection that is to be accorded to the taxpayer. I have no doubt that the Commissioner would act honorably in making his decision. Indeed, probably his would be the best opinion in the community about whether a particular form of tax avoidance was illegal. But what does the Government intend to do to protect the company or person who wants to appeal against that decision? This is one of the cases in which the community has come to realise that the processes of law are too expensive for the average person to pursue. It is encumbent upon the Minister to tell the Committee whether, if it becomes necessary for a taxpayer or small company to appeal against the decision of a very respected officer in the person of the Commissioner of Taxation or his agent, the Government is prepared to assist that person or company to pay the costs.

Is the Government prepared to assist a citizen to exercise his right to appeal against a decision that a contract into which he has entered can reasonably be classified as being an unlawful avoidance of taxation? If the Minister is not prepared to give an assurance that every citizen will be protected, then the submission that has been made tonight by Senator Wright must be regarded as being correct. This is one of very many matters to which the Government has given little consideration. If it persists in its attitude, it will be imposing on some people the need to establish the legality of their action through tribunals that have not previously been recognised in this country.

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