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Tuesday, 31 August 1993
Page: 641

Senator WATSON —by leave—Mr President, I wish to make a short statement relating to the advice tabled by the minister. While I respect the advice and integrity of Mr Rose, I think it must be remembered that he was asked to do a job defending the government in its handling of this particular issue. So we would hardly expect a decision from the Attorney-General's office contrary to what the government has put forward. What the government now proposes is to treat these sorts of issues as issues in a non-taxing bill. We disagree with that particular philosophy because, in our view, that non-taxing bill certainly contains taxing elements.

  I find it rather strange that this advice conflicts with an answer that has just been handed down in this place in relation to the matter previously raised by my colleague Senator Ferguson. In that case the government has two particular bills to meet the constitutional requirements, namely, a tax raising bill and a bill concerned with the administrative aspects.

  The real point at issue is that the government is trying to treat this as a non-tax raising bill to enable it to add a string of issues associated with this particular feature. I put it to the Senate that this is contrary to the constitution. The government is seeking to avoid some very fundamental constitutional issues through a very unsatisfactory device called tacking. I think this is deplorable. The government cannot have it both ways. It can produce either a bill which basically relates to administrative issues and, as such, can be amended, or a bill involving the raising of revenue. I think it is a very shabby exercise; it is a very devious means of getting around what are justifiable constitutional restraints. I suggest that the minister refer the issue back to the Attorney-General's Department.