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Thursday, 29 June 2000
Page: 16090


Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) (8:40 PM) —There have been a number of contributions to this debate. They were poor, average and just awful—in that order. Senator Ray continued his reputation for spleen. Senator Ray criticising someone for being political is just a joke. There is nothing else for Robert Ray but politics. Everything he does is driven by politics. No-one would ever say that Senator Ray makes a big contribution to policy. I might be wrong, but in the big debates we have had in this parliament—the republic, euthanasia—I cannot ever recall any significant contribution to public policy from Senator Ray. He stays away from policy; he is not interested.


Senator Cook —You have a bad memory.


Senator KEMP —He is not interested—and fair enough. Frankly, Senator Ray, for you to be worried about someone being political—you of all people—is just a joke. You attack individuals all the time. Your speeches are full of vengeful attacks on individuals who may have had some association with the Liberal Party in their lives, and so this immediately means they are the subject of vicious, venomous and often slanderous attacks. That is your style.


Senator Robert Ray —When was that tonight?


Senator KEMP —I am telling you your style. Don't get too sensitive. The trouble I find with Senator Ray is that he can dish it out but, every time you get up and want to have a bit of debate with him, he gets terribly sensitive. You attacked a variety of people, so I am just drawing the contrast—what an astonishing thing coming from you! What is the attack on the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister is political. Oh dear! Senator Ray attacks someone for being political, but then I have always said, Senator Ray, that you are not interested in policy issues. Let us face it, you do not make a significant contribution on that side. On the administration of Public Service, I offer only three words: Collins class submarines. That is all I say, Senator Ray. So every time you stand up and attack people, everybody around here asks, `Who was the Minister for Defence during one of the biggest cost blow-outs in Australian history?'


Senator Robert Ray —It did not blow out by a cent.


Senator KEMP —Sorry, I will have to correct myself. Senator Ray said the whole thing—the Collins class submarines—was perfectly managed by him.


Senator Robert Ray —No, I said that it did not blow out by a cent.


Senator KEMP —You are too sensitive, Senator Ray. You can dish it out, but you cannot take it. That is your problem. I am just gently going through your qualities a little bit. You have gone through my qualities 101 times and the Prime Minister's qualities 101 times. But, boy, are you sensitive. Sorry, Senator Ray, if I have caused you any offence. Let me rest my case. Let us face it, you analyse Senator Ray's speeches, and they are always attacking individuals—public servants trying to do their job. He has orchestrated a huge campaign on a range of public servants who were trying to do their job. The problem is they are trying to bring in a new tax system, so Senator Ray, not liking policy initiative—he thinks that is a terrible thing—has just attacked them. He has orchestrated a very wide ranging attack on public servants. Fair enough. Your record shows that you have done that.


Senator Robert Ray —I was just asking them to tell the truth.


Senator KEMP —Frankly, Senator, you are showing what I have always suspected about you: you can dish it out but, as soon as anyone gently reminds you of certain features of your own character and certain features of your own performance, boy, how sensitive can you get.


Senator Robert Ray —Well, tell the truth.


Senator KEMP —The Hansard will record Senator Ray's behaviour. The Hansard will record that I was correct in my observations of Senator Ray and others will draw their conclusions. If you involve yourself in so many vicious personal attacks on people, Senator Ray, you should not get too upset if someone occasionally gently reminds you of your own characteristics. You should not get too upset about that.


Senator Robert Ray —You cannot even name one.


Senator KEMP —Don't be childish. Read every one of your speeches.


Senator Robert Ray —Go on, name one. You still can't name one.


Senator KEMP —Oh, how sensitive we are, Senator Ray. I have said that you do not like policy issues, and I think that is true. You do not take part in big policy debates. I can remember you saying that you were going to bring in a bill to ban the burning of foreign flags, but I do not think that bill ever appeared. That was one area where you did venture into policy at one stage. I remember you saying that.


Senator Robert Ray —Yes, and you know why.


Senator KEMP —I remember you saying that, Senator Ray. So I correct myself. There is one area in which you got into public policy issues. We have never seen that bill, Senator, but we remember. Like a few of us, Senator Ray, you have form too. Just remember that. You have form.


Senator Robert Ray —At least I've had form; you've never had any.


Senator KEMP —Your form, Senator Ray, in three words—Collins class submarines. That is your form.


Senator Robert Ray —What do you want to say about it?


Senator KEMP —Well, you were Minister for Defence for six years, weren't you?


Senator Robert Ray —But what do you want to say about it?


Senator KEMP —Just correct me if I am wrong, but you were Minister for Defence for six years.


Senator Robert Ray —What do you want to say about it?


Senator KEMP —Senator, I think that says it all. Let me return to the legislation. I have been diverted.


Senator Lundy —Even your own colleagues are telling you to get on with it, Kempy.


Senator KEMP —Kate Lundy comes in. Gee, this is tough. Now I know I am in trouble. I have said this before: when Senator Lundy comes in and has a go at you, you know you are in trouble. That is true. Because of that, I will return to the bill.

The bill represents another aspect of tax reform and a very important part of the government's agenda. As part of tax reform, we all know that there is a GST, a new PAYG regime and then there are streamlined consolidated machinery provisions to support the new tax system. To further the process of streamlining the machinery provisions of the tax law, a process which has advantages for both taxpayers and the tax office, the bill establishes a new uniform penalty regime for all taxation laws administered by the commissioner. The uniform penalty regime was not only desirable in its own right because it makes penalties easier to understand and calculate but also necessary to avoid problems with the BAS, business activity statement. One BAS may cover a range of tax obligations such as PAYG and FBT instalments and GST payments. Therefore, it makes sense that if there is a default in relation to a BAS the default does not attract different rates of penalty. The different payments are covered by a single BAS.

Far from complicating the new tax system, the uniform penalty regime is a step in the direction of simplicity. Apart from anything else, the tax office has calculated that this move will result in a reduction in the number of pages of tax law by about 100 pages. The bill also sets out the classes of tax practitioners who can charge for preparing a BAS. The existing income tax and fringe benefits tax laws basically restrict the right to charge for preparing income tax returns to a registered tax agent. However, it was felt that the right to charge for preparing a BAS should be open to a wider class of practitioners, because there was concern that not everybody who was required to lodge a BAS would have access to or need for the services of a registered tax agent.

Persons who will be able to charge for providing BAS services include members of recognised professional associations representing accountants and tax practitioners, bookkeepers working under the direction of registered tax agents, persons who provide payroll bureau services to employers and Customs agents. Expanding the categories of people who can charge for BAS services should help to lighten the workload for tax practitioners in what is a very busy time for everyone. The bill also sought to restate the existing position in relation to registered tax agents but not to materially change it. These provisions of the bill were amended to meet the requirements of the professions. They substantially replicate the existing law but are more broadly based to take account of the cross-tax nature of the BAS.

There are some other important measures in this bill. Perhaps the chief amongst these is the provisions which extend the income tax deductions for plant and software acquired in preparation for the GST. Deductions will now be allowed for equipment and software which is not installed but in respect of which taxpayers have entered into binding contracts. The final part of the bill is a collection of miscellaneous amendments and machinery provisions arising from the new tax system. On the whole, these are purely technical. A number of other issues have been raised, particularly by Senator Ridgeway, and we may address those in the committee stage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.