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The order of the day having been read for the consideration of the amendments made by the Senate—

Mr Slipper (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) moved—That the amendments be disagreed to.

Debate ensued.


The House divided (the Deputy Speaker, Mr Jenkins, in the Chair)—

AYES, 80

Mr AbbottMrs DraperMrs D. M. KellyMr Ruddock
Mr K. J. AndrewsMr DuttonJackie KellyMr Schultz
Mr AnthonyMrs ElsonDr KempMr Scott
Fran BaileyMr EntschMr P. E. KingMr Secker
Mr BairdMr FarmerMrs LeyMr Slipper
Mr BaldwinMr Forrest*Mr LindsayMr A. D. H. Smith
Mr BarresiMrs GallusMr LloydMr Somlyay
Mr BartlettMs GambaroMr McArthur*Dr Southcott
Mr BillsonMrs GashMr I. E. MacfarlaneDr Stone
Mrs B. K. BishopMr GeorgiouMr McGauranMr C. P. Thompson
Ms J. I. BishopMr HaaseMrs MayMr Ticehurst
Mr BroughMr HardgraveMrs MoylanMr Tollner
Mr CadmanMr HartsuykerMr NairnMr Truss
Mr CameronMr HawkerDr NelsonMr Tuckey
Mr CausleyMr HockeyMr NevilleMrs D. S. Vale
Mr CharlesMrs HullMs PanopoulosMr Wakelin
Mr CioboMr HuntMr PearceDr Washer
Mr CobbMr JohnsonMr ProsserMr Williams
Mr CostelloMr JullMr PyneMr Windsor
Mr DownerMr KatterMr RandallMs Worth

NOES, 58

Mr AdamsMr L. D. T. FergusonMr LathamMs Roxon
Mr AlbaneseMr M. J. FergusonMr McClellandMr Rudd
Mr BeazleyMr FitzgibbonMs J. S. McFarlaneMr Sawford
Mr BevisMs GeorgeMs MacklinMr Sciacca
Mr BreretonMr GibbonsMr McLeayMr Sercombe
Ms BurkeMs GillardMr McMullanMr Sidebottom
Mr ByrneMs GriersonMr MelhamMr S. F. Smith
Ms CorcoranMr GriffinMr MossfieldMr Snowdon
Mr CoxMs HallMr MurphyMr Swan
Mrs CrosioMr HattonMs O'ByrneMr Tanner
Mr Danby*Ms HoareMr B. P. O'ConnorMr K. J. Thomson
Mr EdwardsMrs IrwinMr G. M. O'ConnorMs Vamvakinou
Ms EllisMs JacksonMr PriceMr Zahra
Mr EmersonMr KerrMr Quick*
Mr EvansMs C. F. KingMr Ripoll

* Tellers

And so it was resolved in the affirmative.

Mr Slipper presented reasons, which were circulated, and are as follows:

Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to the amendments of the Senate

Senate Amendment No. 1

This amendment provides for the Act to commence on the day after the day on which the Auditor-General provides a report to both Houses of the Parliament containing the results of an investigation into whether the objectives of the Act can be reasonably met by the appropriation provided for that purpose, together with a certification by the Auditor-General that the objectives can be so met.

The amendment is not sufficiently clear to ensure that the commencement date of the Act would be certain. This is not an appropriate function for the Auditor-General. The House of Representatives opposesthis amendment.

Senate Amendment No. 2

This amendment changes the objects clause in the Bill to include the objects of providing independent advice to government on taxation administration and identifying systemic issues in taxation administration.

The amendment confuses the object of the Bill (in Clause 3) with the functions of the Inspector-General (in Clause 7). The House of Representatives opposesthis amendment.

Senate Amendment No. 3

This amendment extends the scope of the Inspector-General's functions to include systems established by laws including tax laws, but only to the extent that the systems deal with tax administration.

The Inspector-General of Taxation Bill 2002 already gives the Inspector-General scope to review non-tax administrative systems of the Australian Taxation Office, including diesel fuel rebates and the Commissioner's role in administering Family Tax Benefit payments.

Since `tax administration' is not defined in the Bill, it is not certain what this amendment will achieve. The Inspector-General will not be examining administrative systems of Commonwealth agencies other than the Australian Taxation Office.

The House of Representatives opposes this amendment.

Senate Amendments Nos 4 & 5

Amendment 4 removes the Minister's discretion to direct the Inspector-General of Taxation to conduct a review. Amendment 5 is a consequential amendment resulting from Amendment 4. The Inspector-General of Taxation is being established to strengthen independent advice to government on systemic tax administration issues. The House of Representatives opposes these amendments.

Senate Amendment No. 6

This amendment mandates consultation at least once a year with people including taxation professionals, groups or associations representing taxpayer interests, the Board of Taxation, and relevant parliamentary committees, to assist the Inspector-General in setting his or her work program.

The Bill already provides for the Inspector-General to undertake extensive public consultation for the purposes of reviews or determining whether a review should be undertaken. This amendment is ambiguous and unnecessary. The House of Representatives opposes this amendment.

Senate Amendment No. 7

This amendment provides that the Inspector-General must submit a copy of a report on a review to the Auditor-General, and authorises the Auditor-General to audit any matter the Auditor-General considers appropriate arising from the report.

The Inspector-General of Taxation Bill 2002 does not override any of the Auditor-General's statutory powers. The Auditor-General has very broad powers and could obtain any information from the Inspector-General considered necessary for an audit. The Bill also provides that the Inspector-General must consult with the Auditor-General at least once a year.

The amendment is unnecessary. The House of Representatives opposes this amendment.

Senate Amendment No. 8

This amendment provides that the Minister must cause a report under section 10 to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Minister receives the report and make the report publicly available.

It is important that the Government retain the discretion as to how the Inspector-General's reports are handled. It would be irresponsible automatically to release reports that could generate uncertainty and speculation in the tax system. The House of Representatives opposes this amendment.

Senate Amendment No. 9

This amendment mandates a review of the operation, effectiveness and implications of this Act to be conducted, together with an assessment of the sufficiency or otherwise of the budgetary allocation for the office and functions of the Inspector-General of Taxation. The amendment also specifies when the review must be conducted and reported.

The Government has already made a public commitment to undertake a review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the office of Inspector-General within five years of the appointment of the first Inspector-General. In the meantime, the office is subject to the accountability procedures for all Commonwealth departments and agencies including, of course, Parliamentary scrutiny.

The House of Representatives opposes this amendment.

On the motion of Mr Slipper, the reasons were adopted.