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Wednesday, 6 August 1930

Senator DALY (South Australia) (Vice- * President of the Executive Council) . - I am surprised at the right honorable gentleman pressing his amendment. When he first referred to it, he was under the impression that there was no statutory board of review. Now his objection is that that board is largely composed of departmental officers. I submit that the right honorable gentleman's statements are an indictment of the previous Government. It was in 1922 that that Government, of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, suggested that it was impracticable for the High Court to decide these matters. Consequently, that Government appointed three men as a board of review. At the time the right honorable gentleman suggested that they were men who would hold the scales evenly between the taxpayer and the department. I have already given the personnel of that board, and have challenged the right honorable senator to show one letter of protest raised by any chamber of commerce, or taxpayers' association, against anything that it has done. To dismiss this board summarily and to say to the High Court that in future not only has a taxpayer the right of appeal to it, but that that court shall hear and determine all questions arising out of any opinion given by the Commissioner, would be to impose upon this Government a task that the previous Government was not prepared to undertake - the necessity to find the money to pay the salaries of the judges whose services would be required,onorable senators know that in order to maintain the high standard that has been built up by the High Court it would be necessary to employ the best brains in the legal .fraternity. At a time when Australia is suffering from severe financial distress, and when the High Court itself is prepared to work undermanned in order to help the nation, the Government is asked to sack this Board of Review, for that is what it amounts to.

Senator H E ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Why alter the wording of the principal act from " de termination" to "opinion"? It is quite a different matter.

Senator DALY - I shall deal with that shortly. I ask why the Government should be asked to revert to the old practice.

Senator E B Johnston - The amendment provides for an appeal ito a single, judge of the Supreme Court.

Senator DALY - And eventually there will be an appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Supreme Court judge. Why should Parliament chop and change about in these matters? What reasons have been advanced for breaking away from a system that was introduced by our predecessors in office? This Government did not introduce the Board of Review, yet Senator Pearce states that these men have forgotten the very high and onerous judicial office that they are supposed to perform. The right honorable senator said that they are merely departmental officers. One is a barristeratlaw, who was a special magistrate in Western Australia; another is a very highly-qualified accountant, brought from Tasmania, while the third is a taxation expert. I believe that the reputation of each is unimpeachable. What evidence has been adduced before this Senate which would lead any reasonable man to vote against the proposals of this Government, and to justify this Senate breaking away from the prevailing system? I submit, only that of caprice. Of course, if the Opposition choose to deal with the subject capriciously, as apparently Senator Johnston proposes to do, no argument that I can advance will change their attitude. Honorable senators know that if this system had not met with the approval of the chambers of commerce and the taxpayers generally, there would have been objections against it. Senator Johnston referred to the telegrams that he has received from different associations, but he is not able to quote any objection to the action of this Board of Review.

Senator E B Johnston - I have had requests that the right of appeal should bc provided against the opinions of the Commissioner of Taxation.

Senator DALY - Apparently the people concerned did not know of their present right of appeal, which was provided by the Bruce-Page Government. T ask Senator Johnston whether he has had any complaint against this Board of Review, that was established by the Government's predecessors in office?

SenatorE. B. Johnston. - Certainly not.

Senator DALY - Then why the necessity to alter the existing arrangement? The right of appeal to the High Court is still preserved on any question of law arising from proceedings before the Board of Review.

Senator Sir George Pearce - But not on questions of fact.

Senator DALY - The taxpayer has the right to go to the High Court if the facts involve any question of law. I ask the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), why did the previous Government introduce this legislation and establish the Board of Review; also what has happened since then to shake his confidence in that board? Honorable senators are entitled to have an answer to those questions, and to know whether the right honorable senator is merely prompted by caprice. In the absence of satisfactory answers' to those questions, I submit that honorable senators have a clear duty to perform, and that is to support the action of the Government with regard to this proposal. I can assure Senator H. E. Elliott, if he has any misgivings as to the use of the word " opinion," that I am prepared to. recommit the clause and alter the word to " determination." His vote on this amendment will not prejudice his desire in that respect. I shall lend the honorable senator a copy of the explanatory brochure that was circulated to each honorable senator, which contains a full explanation of these alterations.

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