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Wednesday, 4 June 1969


Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I am not insensitive to the pressures which have been growing throughout the day for a termination as soon as possible of this sitting of the Senate.


Senator Dittmer - The honourable senator contributed to them in the past.


Senator GREENWOOD - I appreciate what is said by Senator Dittmer, who has sat here patiently and silently all day. But I feel that there are things that ought to be said about this measure. I propose to support the Bill, but I express my protest at the fact that this legislation has come before the Senate at this late stage and that there has not been an opportunity for a proper consideration of its provisions. I note that it was introduced and read a first time in the other place on 15th May, but it was not until last week, in the final week of the sessional period, that the discussion of the matter in the other place was concluded. Today we are debating the Bill in what I suggest is double quick time. I can only regret that this is the position. The Bill is One which the Senate is not entitled under the Constitution to amend, and the opportunity which would otherwise be available for discussion, if the Senate saw fit to request some amendment to it, is not available. I feel that this measure has the earmarks of haste and lacks those qualities which ought to denote a measure which takes into account the best provisions of stamp duties legislation throughout Australia.

I am not one who supports a uniformity for the sake of uniformity. Indeed, if one looks at the stamp duties legislation throughout Australia one cannot say that it is uniform. I desire to say only with regard to the provisions of the measure that there are certain features which I think could be amended with benefit. I mention the Victorian Stamps Act in this regard because it has certain features, some of which have been reproduced in other States, which have a merit which ought to be considered in the promulgation of a measure for the Australian Capital Territory. I refer to the situation which prevails when there is a transfer on the winding up or reduction of the capital of a company. Transfers of shares and marketable securities where the transfer is to a beneficiary who has an entitlement on the winding up are, under the law in Victoria and, as I believe, in some other States, not subject to any duty. But under this legislation there is no exemption which would permit such transfers to be free of duty in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 feel that it should be borne in mind that the whole pattern of recent company legislation is directed towards facilitating disclosure and the publication of information. Thus company structures which have contained many subsidiary companies are finding that the requirements of recent proposals are such that they must in some way merge their activities and lessen the number of subsidiaries. Accordingly, there will be windings up and there may be reductions of capital. If the cost of so winding up is prohibitive, then what I feel is a desirable objective and a desirable result of all these company law investigations will be inhibited. I feel that is one sphere in which there could be reform. Then too a situation of similar character could exist when real estate is being transferred. There could be a transfer to a beneficiary, on the winding up or on the reduction of capital, in respect of which duty ought not to be paid. That, again, is the case in Victoria. 1 have made some inquiries and sought some elucidation as to why what I thought were desirable amendments could not have been introduced at an earlier stage. I am assured that the procedure which has been adopted has been to follow the New South Wales provisions. I know that in the past a lot of good has come out of New South Wales. In recent times, in matters of law, they are catching up with reforms which other States of the Commonwealth adopted in, I think, 1883. At least what is happening in New South Wales indicates a willingness to recognise that what has happened in other parts of the world is acceptable. But I do feel that when stamp duty legislation is being imposed in the Australian Capital Territory the Commonwealth has the opportunity to examine the provisions of the stamp duty legislation in all the States and ought to take from that legislation those provisions which impose duty and those exemptions which exoner-ate from duty, which represent the best provisions in all the legislation - those which have been tested and those which have been shown to-be beneficial. That has nol been done.


Senator Byrne - Provided that coincides with the policy which the Government desires to adopt.


Senator GREENWOOD - I accept what the honourable senator says. But one senses that these measures are designed to prevent the Australian Capital Territory becoming a haven to which people from the other States resort to avoid stamp duty imposts to which they have to submit in the other States. I think it is desirable that the Australian Capital Territory should not be such a place of resort. But I think that that, rather than a desire arbitrarily to impose tax upon the citizens of Canberra, is the real point behind these measures. As I have said, I support the measures but I do register my protest that the matter has come before the Parliament in such a way that we are denied the opportunity of giving to the legislation that consideration which I think the Senate should give to all legislation.

Before I sit down, I should like to refer to what Senator Milliner said. I know that it is a tactic these days, in this place, in an election year when the Australian Labor Party member for the Australian Capital Territory is up for re-election, for this chamber to become a place in which the political issues of the Australian Capital Territory are strenuously canvassed. We have had debates about the sewerage ordinance, we have had debates about the abattoir, and now we have the same theme reproduced in this debate about stamp duty tax. 1 think it was a striking example of delving deep to find an argument when Senator Milliner said that it is something approaching a travesty that the Australian Capital Territory does not have representation in this chamber and that if there were such representation then maybe we could look at these Bills in a somewhat different light. I say it is scraping the barrel to use an argument like that to oppose these measures. Whilst the Opposition has indicated that it will oppose the measure, the basis upon which it does do so does little credit to the Party and shows lack of proper appreciation of what our attitude towards legislation of this character should be. As 1 have said, with the reservations I have expressed, 1 support the measure.







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