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Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 1910

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (Minister for Air) - The Government opposes the amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh. This type of clause has appeared in levy collection legislation and has been the subject of criticism in earlier legislation which has established research schemes. These laws and justice provisions have been discussed previously with the Attorney-General's Department during the debate on the pig and dried fruits research legislation. The Bill before us conforms with other levy collection research legislation, and experience from the existing butter fat levy has shown that the averment provision is used most infrequently. When proceedings are initiated in the court the Commonwealth may find that it has to make an averment of certain evidence. In most instances the facts on which there is liability to pay the levy are facts peculiarly within the knowledge of the purchaser or the dairy company, and it is difficult for the Commonwealth to ascertain these facts. Clearly it is impractical to have the oversight of all transactions either by posting inspectors at all dairies and purchasing authorities or by taking some other such action. The averment clause thus assists the Department to carry out its responsibility to collect levy payments without causing harassment of the purchasers or dairy factories.

It should be recognised clearly that the averment relates only to the facts of the case, that is, to the evidence. It is open to the person charged to bring before the court his own opposing evidence should he wish to argue that the matters averred are incorrectly stated. The Commonwealth cannot aver that a person is guilty. The Commonwealth in fact collects levy payments at the request of the industry for the benefit of the industry. It is not collecting a tax for Commonwealth revenue purposes. The Government would seriously have to reconsider its role in the scheme if the collection of levy moneys incurred high costs and administrative difficulties. This could have only adverse effects on the industry. In these circumstances it does not seem improper or unfair for the Commonwealth to avail itself of an averment provision when bringing proceedings against anyone believed to have attempted to evade the obligation of paying the levy. Therefore the Government cannot accept the amendment and will oppose it.

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