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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 264

Dr Gun asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

(1)   Are proposals in the annual Commonwealth Budget to impose, alter or remove taxes or excise duties customarily kept secret until the presentation of the Budget in the House; if so, what are the reasons for the secrecy.

(2)   Can he instance any cases where this secrecy has been breached.

(3)   What precautions are taken against premature disclosure.

Mr Snedden - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   It is practice for Budget proposals relating to changes in the rates and coverage of sales taxes and excise duties to be kept secret until the presentation of the Budget Speech in the House, and to take effect on the following day.

If this were not done, and some interval were allowed between the announcement of rate changes and the date of their coming into effect, the result could be, in the case of a rate increase, a loss of part of that revenue which the increase is designed to produce. Users of the goods affected would, presumably, increase their stocks of die goods in anticipation of higher prices following the implementation of the higher rate of tax or duty.

In the case of a tax rate reduction, the allowance of an interval between announcement of such a change and its effective date of operation could lead users of the goods to delay purchasing, because of the possibility that the reduced rate of taxation would be reflected in lower prices. Any such delay could have possible adverse effects on producers and vendors of the goods.

Problems of this type do not apply to the same extent in relation to direct taxes - for example, personal income taxes. However, any proposed variations in these taxes in a Budget are not disclosed prior to the introduction of that Budget.

(2)   There has not, to my knowledge, been any instance where a breach of secrecy prior to the tabling of the Budget Speech has been shown to have occurred.

(3)   Public Service Regulations 34 and .35 and section 70 of the Crimes Act deal specifically with the responsibilities of officers in regard to the disclosure of official information. In addition, information about prospective taxation proposals is restricted to those officers who, in view of their responsibilities of functions, need to know of such proposals.

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