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Wednesday, 2 November 1910

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - While I like to listen to the accusations made by Senator St. Ledger against the Government, I ask honorable senators opposite to be a little reasonable in dealing with our imperfections and the imperfections of the measures we submit to the Senate. Senator St. Ledger knows that to meet the exigencies of the Treasury this tax will have to be levied during the current financial year. Other honorable senators are also aware of the fact, and yet they waste time in endeavouring to make some amendment or another which may appear to them to be reasonable. They forget that the whole system has to be organized, and all the assessments made within this year. I should like to ask honorable senators opposite what position the Commissioner of Land Tax would be in if he had to give the sixty days' notice suggested in this first year of levying the tax. If he can give more than thirty days' notice he will give it when the Department is sufficiently organized. In future years I have no doubt the Commissioner of Land Tax will be able to give two or three months' notice, but honorable senators must recognise the position confronting us at the present time. To listen to Senator St. Ledger one would think that Cooktown is in the next world and not in this world at all. A wire can be sent to Cooktown as easily as to any other place. When the notice is published in the Gazette under regulations which can and will be made, the notice will be posted at every post-office in the Commonwealth, so that people at Cooktown or Cairns-

Senator Guthrie - Is there a post-office at Cooktown?

Senator McGREGOR - Yes, there is a post-office at Cooktown, and at Thursday Island, Port Darwin, Broome, Geraldton, Fremantle, and all these remote places. 1 can assure honorable senators opposite that the information will be spread, because the Government will require the money, and they will take every precaution that every taxpayer shall be given an opportunity to pay up his land tax right away. I have explained the necessity for making the minimum period one month for the first year, and I can assure honorable senators that no Commissioner of Land Tax would be so unreasonable as not to give abundant notice if time permits.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [3. n]. - The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said two or three things which, on reflection, I think he will wish to unsay. He suggests that honorable senators who are seeking some little amelioration of this provision are bent on wasting the time of the Senate.

Senator McGregor - No; I did not mean that.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is one of the things which I thought my honorable friend would like to unsay. He has unsaid it, and therefore we can drop it. Another thing the honorable senator said was a little amusing. He told us that as the Government needs the money the Commissioner of Land Tax will take ample care this year that every taxpayer shall be given an opportunity to pay the tax. That is just what the Government are not providing for in this clause. Senator St. Ledger was mistaken when he seemed to imply that some notice would be issued in the nature of a demand. There is to be no demand issued to the taxpayer. This notice is to appear in the Gazette, a publication which it is the solemn duty of every citizen to read and study. I am afraid that the duty is one which, like many other of the obligations of a citizen, the average citizen does not perform. This notice is to appear in the Gazette, and within thirty days after the date named in it this provision is to be applied to the taxpayer, and he cannot help himself. The money may not come in, but it will remain as a first charge upon his land, and after the expiration of the thirty days the taxpayer will be liable to an additional tax of 10 per cent., whether he knows anything about this notice or not. My desire is that as we are going to shear the lamb we should temper the wind to the lamb when shorn. The sole object of honorable senators on this side is to give the taxpayer the time which the VicePresident of the Executive Council thinks he should have to pay up. I agree that now that we have decided to impose a land tax we should take every possible means of seeing that it is paid by every citizen who is liable. I am appealing to the Government to take into consideration the question whether it is not a reasonable thing to make some provision for appeals? We do not know at present what time is to be allowed to a taxpayer to appeal against the assessment of the tax.

Senator McGregor - A taxpayer must always pay the tax before he can appeal.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The existence of the appeal will not affect the man's liability to pay the tax, and he may have to pay pending the appeal, taking the chance of getting the money back if successful. Under the regulations, the Government may prescribe that a man must lodge his appeal within these thirty days. What will happen then?

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator is assuming that everybody is going to be unreasonable.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - AYe fancy we have an example of it in this clause. If the time is enlarged, there will be no harm in prescribing by regulation that a man shall put in his appeal withinsixty days, if that will be a reasonable time to adopt, and, in the meantime, he will have to pay the tax. It will not stay for a moment the collection of the tax, but only give a reasonable chance to the taxpayer to understand what he is doing, and the obligation which he is incurring. That answers what my honorable friend said in regard to the collection of the tax within this financial year. I quite recognise that in this year there will not be the same time available as there will be in normal years. If my suggestion be adopted, it will give a reasonable opportunity for a taxpayer to know what he has to pay, and when he has to make the payment, before the fine of 10 per cent, automatically comes into operation. On that ground, I think that the Minister might very fairly enlarge the minimum in the clause.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.18].- I do not know why the Minister should refuse to extend the time. I have looked up the New South Wales Act, and find that there is no particular time for the notice in the Gazette. There is nevertheless a period of sixty days afterwards, in which a man has to pay up before he becomes liable to a penalty. It is only reasonable, that the Minister should extend the period to sixty days, and then the tax would have to be paid within three months from the date of the notice in the Gazette. If the Bill becomes law by the end of this month, there will still be seven months of the financial year to run, so that within the financial year there will be ample time for the notice to be given in the Gazette, and time for the payment to be concluded. I do not want to propose an amendment. I prefer that the Minister should adopt our suggestion.

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