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Wednesday, 12 September 1928

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Boothby) . - Although I do not consider the amendments to be made by the bill of great importance, I am sorry that opportunity was not given to members to consider the remarks made by the Treasurer in moving its second reading yesterday.. The Hansard report of his speech is not yet available, nor has any newspaper report of it been received. It is, therefore, a little difficult to know exactly why some of the provisions of the bill are considered necessary. The provision exempting show grounds is desirable, because as the act has been construed, practically every agricultural1 society in Australia would be deprived of the relief intended to be given by previous legislation. Nearly every show ground in this country lies vacant for the greater part of the year, and if the agricultural society which owns it can let it, and make money thereby, it is all to the benefit of the society. The real test seems to be that revenue derived from the renting of these grounds should be actually devoted to the purposes of the society, and not to the benefit of private persons. I myself brought before the notice of the Treasurer an instance of the unfair operation possible under the existing law, and I am glad that the alteration .contained in the bill is to be made.

The amendment in clause 3 relating to reference of appeals to a board appears to be a justifiable alteration of the present law, because the new provision applies only in the case of default by the taxpayer, in which case the forfeiture of his deposit is made mandatory.

As the amendment made by clause 4 arises out of an amendment which I moved in this chamber last December, and which met with the general approval of members on both sides, I confess that, while the alteration does not seem to me to be highly important, I am unable to see why it is proposed. The arrangement which I suggested has been in force only since the end of last year, and there has been little time to ascertain whether it is working well or ill. I must dissociate myself from responsibility for any flaw that there may be in the actual wording adopted last year, because I agreed to withdraw my amendment to allow of the substitution of a form and proviso drafted by the Government. The Treasurer said at that time that that amendment had been carefully examined by the Taxation Department and by the legal officers of the Crown. If it is now necessary to alter it the fault does not lie with me, although I was the original mover in the matter.

I should like the Treasurer, in replying, or when the bill reaches the committee stage, to explain the reason for the addition of a sub-clause providing that where, in the opinion of the court, there is unreasonable delay on the part of the appellant in setting an appeal down for hearing, the court may, upon application by the respondent, dismiss the appeal for want of prosecution. The ordinary procedure, whether a matter is referred to the High Court or the Supreme Court, or to a board, is for the taxpayer to request the Commissioner to bring the matter before the body in question. In other words, the taxpayer is practically always the appellant. Occasionally, when a justice of the High Court has heard the case, and has decided against the Commissioner, and the latter wishes to carry the matter to the full High Court, the Commissioner would become the appellant; but in 49 land tax cases out of 50, and possibly in 99 cases out of 100, the appellant is the taxpayer. Up to the present time all he has had to do has been to request the Commissioner to have the matter set down for hearing, and the only assurance I am asking for is that the effect of this clause will not be, directly or indirectly, to throw the responsibility for having the appeal set down for hearing upon the taxpayer and not upon the Commissioner. I imagine that there is no such intention, and that it is intended that this clause shall apply equally to the Commissioner and the taxpayer. But as the appellant is practically always the taxpayer, I ask whether it is intended that this amendment shall overrule the general custom by which the taxpayer requests the Commissioner to have the matter set down for hearing, and the setting down is done by the Taxation Department through the Commissioner. I should be glad of the Treasurer's assurance on that point, so that it may be made perfectly clear.

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