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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1986

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.20) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

On 7 September 1983 the Attorney-General introduced into this chamber a Bill indentical in all respects with this Bill. That Bill was a revision of an earlier Bill which my colleague the Minister for Veterans' Affairs introduced on 31 May 1983. Honourable senators will recall that both those Bills were defeated in this place on a tied vote. The Bill I am now introducing is designed, as indeed was the Bill introduced on 7 September 1983, to give effect to this government's election undertaking to recover personal tax avoided by former owners of companies that were the subject of bottom of the harbour schemes. In addition, the Bill proposes to strengthen and improve in several identified areas the legislation introduced by the opposition parties in 1982 to recoup company tax that was evaded by the use of those schemes.

Mr President, as I have said, the present Bill does not vary from its progenitor and I think it will suffice if I draw honourable senator's attention to the Attorney-General's second reading speech on introduction of that Bill for an explanation of the main features of this Bill. In that second reading speech the Attorney-General also referred to an amendment of an evidentiary provision in the recoupment tax law that was being made for reasons connected with a constitutional challenge in the High Court to the validity of the legislation. The amendment proposed to vary the evidentiary provision so that a certificate by the Commissioner of Taxation specifying the amount of a company's liability to company tax would be prima facie, rather than conclusive, evidence. Honourable senators will be aware that the High Court recently held unanimously that the substantive provisions of the recoupment tax legislation are constitutionally valid. All members of the court, however, expressed views that the existing conclusive evidence provision might, at least in part, be invalid. The proposed amendment will ensure that the evidentiary provision is constitutionally valid in all respects.

Mr President, by re-presenting the measures contained in the earlier Bill, the Government again demonstrates its determination to make every effort to give effect to its election commitments in relation to 'bottom of the harbour' schemes. I now give notice that the Government is resolved to press this matter in this chamber and intends that the opposition parties should stand and be counted by the Australian public for their obstructive attitude on anti-tax avoidance legislation. The measures contained in the bill are estimated to yield $270m in total, and they deserve to be given the approval of the Parliament. As is usual with amendments of the taxation laws, an explanatory memorandum giving technical details of the amendments contained in the Bill is being circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.