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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5458

Senator SCHACHT (12.42 a.m.) —I appreciate the bona fides of Senator Watson in raising this issue of protecting scientific institutions, schools and churches. It is basically supporting the motherhood groups in the community that all of us would naturally feel obliged to support. But I really think the issue at stake is one of equity.

  Senator Watson says there are inequities if one is on the wrong side of wherever one draws the line—whether it is one kilometre or 1 1/2 kilometres. It means that if one is inside the line, one has to pay no matter what one's income is and no matter who one is. What Senator Watson is doing with this amendment is adding another inequity in that if a person happens to be in a certain occupation he will get an advantage.

  It is not just a matter of the chancellor or the vice-chancellor of a university. Many other people in these institutions on medium and upper medium level incomes and even low income earners may be affected. Other very low income earners in that kilometre range working in the private sector will also be affected and will have to pay. Once that boundary is defined, I think it is inequitable that a person who happens to be in the private sector has to pay but a person who is in the public sector or in a general charitable or religious area does not.

Senator Watson —The boss pays.

Senator SCHACHT —The employer pays. I am saying that if one happens to be a private sector employer, one has to pay. If one is in a certain public sector or in a charitable institution, et cetera, one does not have to pay. I am always intrigued that when lists are drawn up we always find somebody who goes out of his way with the help of a clever tax accountant to find a way to broaden that exemption into definitions.

  I notice that proposed new subsection (2)(a) in Senator Watson's amendment states:

a scientific institution (other than an institution carried on by a company, society or association for the purposes of profit or gain to its individual shareholders or members); or

Many of our universities, for example, are now setting up private subsidiary companies to commercialise their research to take advantage of the encouragement we have given them to make a profit.

Senator Kernot —Why?

Senator SCHACHT —Because they want to take advantage of their research. So if one happens to be the head of a university research section that makes a profit as a commercial operation, under Senator Watson's amendment one will not have to pay a tax. However, a private enterprise research body down the road which, as a commercial undertaking, makes a profit, has to pay. This is where I think we run into the problem of creating an inequity in respect of low income earners and high income earners working within the same one kilometre. The argument about the one kilometre is a different matter. I argue that, in terms of real equity, once one is inside the line there should be no exemptions.

  The final point I want to make is that, in a practical way, many people in these institutions will get a real advantage. They will be using their car park. Take my own case in South Australia. Adelaide University is on a prime site. It is almost in the centre of the central business district of Adelaide and has hundreds of car parking spots for staff. They will all be exempt. The university staff members will have the social advantage of being able to use that car park of a weekend and after hours for their social amenity of going shopping, going to entertainment and so on.

  It is a real advantage to be able to park one's car in the Adelaide University grounds, close to the central business district and all the entertainment areas of Adelaide. Staff will pay nothing. But if one is in the private sector a hundred yards down the road, one will have to pay. I do not think an institution such as the Adelaide University should be exempt. I think it creates inequity that will cause some sense of upset and envy between two different groups of people.

  I can understand in a simple way that the amendment seems good. But the amendment will create real inequity between groups of people within the one kilometre. Therefore, I would urge Senator Watson and Senator Kernot from the Australian Democrats to consider the issue of real equity.