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Thursday, 27 June 1996
Page: 2370

Senator BELL(1.02 p.m.) —I want to respond to the suggestion that the Australian Democrats' amendment is superfluous, and that the parliament has the capacity to review each year. It is important that this argument be conducted properly because for several years parliament has attempted to convince the government of the time that there was good reason to change the tax uplift factor. There have been many opportunities for parliament to take that and put it to the government but of course we have had great difficulty doing that.

It sounds as if I am filibustering, and that is exactly what I am doing because I need the minister's attention to make this point properly. I assume that the opposition's shadow minister is at least with me on this, directing my remarks through you, Madam Chair. I also make the comment that the ALP was also difficult to move. When parliament expressed an opinion—at least in this chamber we were expressing the opinion—that the taxation uplift factor was out of kilter with the prevailing economic circumstances, with the rate of inflation and the other GDP measurements, we were unable, as a Senate, to impress the government at the time.

I will return to the theme and express it so that the minister can at least address himself to this argument now. Senator Short's comment that this would be superfluous illustrates the fact that for several years this chamber has attempted to bring this matter to the attention of the government of the day. This is not superfluous. This is a requirement that parliament at least be considered and that the government needs to defer to parliament in this regard.

I hope Senator Short recalls the attempts to bring the provisional tax uplift factor into a closer relationship with the prevailing economic circumstances. That failed for several years. Each time it was considered, the comments were made that it was the wrong moment to bring it up because the rates had been determined for the year, and that this is the wrong bill within which to conduct this debate.

The reason for the Australian Democrats' amendment is to ensure that parliament is taken into regard if there is something wrong with this calculation, and it does not have the desired effect and needs a little more than fine tuning. We support entirely the recognition that the taxation factor needs to be in concert with prevailing economic circumstances. To put in the front at (3), that `unless parliament otherwise provides,' at least we are paying regard to the fact that parliament should have the capacity to review it.

The opportunity should be taken because we have had the experience over a number of years of trying to do something about it here, but it has been dismissed as being irrelevant. I do not think it will harm it. If, in your opinion, it is superfluous then surely it will not detract from the intention of your amendment, which we support as being a darned sight better than defaulting to a rate which is so far out of kilter from the reality of the economic situation.