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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3105

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry and Commerce)(11.52) —The Government opposes the amendment moved by the Australian Democrats. It does so, firstly, because this is not the appropriate mechanism for making a change of the kind sought by the Australian Democrats. This Bill is one to overcome a technical problem in the legislation. As was said in the second reading speech, the Bill is not intended to pre-empt the promised general review of the tax. That general review of the tax is under way. What I am in a sense appealing to Senator Jack Evans to understand is this: He is concerned about this little constituent group-a very important constituent group-but Parliament would look silly if, on the basis of his subjective judgment, it were to seek to amend the legislation in the way sought. I am certainly not prepared to make the judgment in this chamber, and I hope nobody else is, that parents and citizens associations are more aggrieved or more damaged by this legislation than Meals on Wheels, the Boy Scouts Association which Senator Harradine mentioned, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, or any other--

Senator Georges —Credit unions.

Senator BUTTON —Credit unions, as Senator Georges says, or any other organisation which is aggrieved or may be aggrieved by the application of this tax. The Government has said that those matters will all be reviewed. That review involves making a series of relative value judgments. When the review is completed, the response will come back to the Parliament and then people such as the Australian Democrats will have an opportunity to say that the value judgments of the review are in their opinion wrong and that they would like to substitute their view for the view adopted by the comprehensive review which will take into account the views and opinions of all the groups concerned about and affected by the tax. That is the appropriate opportunity to do that. I do not dissent from the view that the voluntary associations associated with schools are very important. But, in the absence of the report of the comprehensive review, I am not in a position to say, and I honestly do not believe that other senators are in a position to say, that the burden imposed on those associations is of a qualitatively different nature from the burden imposed on others by this tax.

Hundreds of representations have been made to honourable senators on behalf of various organisations, and of course made to the review. To amend this legislation to exempt one particular group of organisations from the tax without considering the claims of many others according to the same set of criteria is to reduce this Parliament to a piecemeal populist institution which, on the basis of off the cuff value judgments, determines that one group is more aggrieved qualitatively and is more adversely affected than another group. As I have said before, the review is under way and it will report early next year. Then is the time to deal with these matters, not in a technical Bill.

There is a further reason for opposing the Australian Democrats' amendment. It is not clear what the expression 'voluntary school support organisation' means. For example, it does not appear to cover support organisations connected with colleges, universities or other educational bodies. Nor does it seem to cover organisations not connected with a particular school but only those concerned with promoting the interests, improvement and advancement of particular forms of education. It does not cover those. I mention these examples simply to bring home the point that was mentioned earlier that it is a piecemeal ad hoc amendment and these things often create more problems than they solve. I repeat that the Government will examine all these matters and will report to the Parliament in the course of its response to the review. For those reasons, I urge the Senate to oppose this amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.