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Wednesday, 28 March 1973
Page: 777

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - Both of these agreements were concluded during the period when I was the Treasurer. It is therefore to be expected that I would give the agreements the support of the Opposition, and I do that. I am glad to see the agreements given the legislative basis which will enable them as a matter of law to apply in Australia. I do not know whether the New Zealand Government has legislated yet but I hope that it will do so and that the matter will be finalised. Over a considerable period of time Italy and other European countries have been calling for the conclusion of double tax agreements with those countries. It has not been possible to conclude all those agreements with the rapidity that those countries would have liked. I notice that sitting in the officials' box is one of the officers who has been engaged in the highly complicated task of negotiation. It is not possible just to pick up an officer and declare him to be a negotiator on these double tax agreements because of the complexity of them and because those officers carry with them a very important negotiating and bargaining duty so that Australia's interests will be protected and will not be subservient to the interests of other countries.

I fully support the concept of double tax agreements even though they may be, as in the case of Italy, of a limited kind. That is all that can be negotiated at present. I look forward to the wider spread of double tax agreements. I know that the Treasury, the Commissioner of Taxation and his staff have a program for negotiating these double tax agreements with other countries. I have come across a number of businessmen in Australia, businessmen from other countries and diplomatic representatives from other countries who have expressed some doubt as to whether the present Government intends to go for ward with the negotiation of these double tax agreements. Their uncertainty will have an effect on the level of the flow of trade between Australia and those countries. Quite clearly, one of the matters to be taken into account in trading operations by private trading organisations is the significance to them of the incidence of taxation in their country of residence and in the country in which the operation occurs and the profit is earned.

Negotiations took place last year culminating in the successful conclusion of a double tax agreement with Germany. The West German Ambassador to Australia and I signed the agreement in late November last year. I regret that there is no legislation which would give the force of law to that agreement. I hope that the Acting Treasurer will inform me whether legislation will come in to give confirmation to that agreement. I make the point that negotiations for a double tax agreement between France and Australia were concluded last year. There were reasons why that agreement could not be signed. I ask the Minister to inform me whether the Australian Government will put its signature to the double tax agreement with France. I also ask the Minister to inform me whether it is the Government's intention to go ahead with the negotiation of double tax agreements according to the order of priorities established last year by the Treasury and the Taxation Office. I know that the Minister is acting as Treasurer and that this information may not be within his immediate knowledge. I have not given him forewarning of these questions. I do not want to embarrass him. If he needs to consult his officers I will be happy to receive that information, because regardless of the effect of that information I still believe that this Bill to give effect to these agreements should go through. The Opposition will support the Bill.

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