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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4107


Senator COONAN (11:03 AM) —I indicate on behalf of the coalition that, whilst we appreciate the sentiment behind Senator Fielding’s amendment, we are not disposed to support it, largely for the reasons that have been outlined by the minister. I have absolutely no reason to do anything other than accept the advice from the Australian Taxation Office that the problem identified here is dealt with and can be dealt with administratively by the tax office. The law is very clear that it is possible to vary PAYG withholding to reflect the liability of a taxpayer. But the second reason, apart from the fact that we are of the view that the existing law can deal with the issue raised, is that as with all of these matters, including Senator Xenophon’s second reading amendment, which I did not get a chance to speak to, one has to always be wary of unintended consequences in changing any part of the tax law. It is a bit like pulling a thread in a carpet, as I remarked to the minister during a conversation we had a little while ago. The complexities of the tax act are such that, if you change a bit of it, it usually means there are unintended consequences in other areas. The minister has referred to some of them, particularly in relation to complexities with the fringe benefits tax. It is a very good thing for us all to be vigilant if we come across what we perceive as inequities and difficulties and raise these matters in this place, so I certainly make no criticism of Senator Fielding for raising a legitimate issue. It is just that I am of the view that the advice from the Australian Taxation Office is in fact correct—that the legislation does enable this matter to be appropriately dealt with.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.