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Friday, 16 June 1989
Page: 4292

Senator STONE (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(3.43) —I regret having to detain the chamber longer on these matters. I suppose it is clear that the Australian Democrats have done a deal with the Government on this matter, that the amendments will be rejected, and that the Bill will pass. Therefore, one might ask what are we still talking about. There are a few matters I wish to talk about.

As I understood Senator Macklin's remarks, his argument was-and I hope I am not misrepresenting him; I am sure he will tell me if I am-that our amendments tend to cut across the work of the Privacy Commissioner and diminish the importance of his work. I hope that is a fairly accurate paraphrase of what Senator Macklin said. With the greatest of respect, that is simply untrue. These amendments do not cut across the work of the Privacy Commissioner; they simply define the framework within which the Privacy Commissioner works somewhat differently from the framework which will be defined for him by the Government under the terms of the Bill. They do not cut across his work in any way at all. As to the suggestion that they would diminish the importance of his work--

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Peter Baume) —Order! It being 3.45 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:

That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.

Question resolved in the negative.

Senator STONE —I was saying before I was interrupted by sessional orders that the suggestion that our amendments would diminish the importance of the work of the Privacy Commissioner is quite erroneous. In no way do the amendments diminish the importance of his work. What we are seeking to do is to establish a particular framework under which information of a taxation confidential kind should be passed to the law enforcement authorities by the Commissioner of Taxation or his officers. We are seeking to establish that framework on a somewhat different basis-a basis of considerable difference in principle-from that which is proposed by the Government.

I suggest that what we have got in this Bill is an example of what might be called the salami tactics of the present Government in the whole area of privacy and confidentiality of taxation information. We have had considerable invasions of section 16 of the Act already for reasons which the Parliament has considered to be good. We are now getting another invasion which, as the Minister has been forced to confess-somewhat shamefacedly; I do not blame him for this-was not referred by the Government at the drafting stage to the Privacy Commissioner for comment. This is one of the things that Senator Macklin has quite rightly been objecting to. Yet we have another piece of whittling away at the privacy of people who come into contact with-and who does not?-the Commissioner of Taxation about taxation matters. We believe that the Government's legislation goes too far. None of the arguments, or pseudo arguments, that have been put on that subject by the Australian Democrats today, in their attempt to find reasons to support the Government's Bill, persuades me to the contrary.

Amendments negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.