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Thursday, 2 September 1993
Page: 876

Senator ALSTON (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (11.15 a.m.) —As I understand what the minister has just said, what we have from Mr Rose is only an advice given after the event.

Senator Gareth Evans —I told you that yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.

Senator ALSTON —Also, the minister told the Senate that a deliberate policy decision was taken by the government to bring all these measures together in such—I think he said—an interlocking way, presumably so as to make it very difficult, if not, from his point of view, hopefully impossible for the Senate to separate out one from another.

  If that is the case, I would ask the minister to table any other examples of bills that have been brought before the parliament in that way. If this is regular practice, we would like an elaboration of it because, at first blush, it with would seem to be explicitly contrary to the express provisions of section 55. If it is not regular practice, is the minister suggesting to the parliament that this was simply an initiative taken by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel without any input from the government? In other words, is he suggesting there was no canvassing of the possible constitutional difficulties that might arise from this tacking exercise?

Senator Gareth Evans —Read what I said in Hansard and you will have your answer.

Senator ALSTON —If the Minister is telling us that there is no documentation—

Senator Gareth Evans —The law was perceived to be clear in the mind of the OPC. You can combine anything you want provided one of the elements in it is not a law imposing tax, and everything else follows from that. That is the view they have taken and that is the view set out in Rose's opinion.

Senator ALSTON —But the fundamental proposition is what constitutes a law imposing taxation.

Senator Gareth Evans —That is the matter on which they did seek preliminary advice from Mr Witynski and that is what I tabled.

Senator ALSTON —Other than that, this minister is saying there was no input from the government; that was simply an advice that they proffered.

Senator Gareth Evans —That is my understanding.

The PRESIDENT —What is developing is a debate across the chamber and Senator Alston has the call.

Senator ALSTON —That is why I do not wish to take it further at this stage. Could I simply have leave to table a list of bills—20 in all, including four that have been recently introduced into the parliament—all of which are marked `T*' and which therefore are regarded by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel as imposing taxation, and which simply increase the rates of tax. On that basis I will be very interested indeed to read the opinions which manage to draw this distinction between some bills which increase the rates of tax and do not constitute the imposition of tax, and others that do.

  Leave granted.