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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1479

Senator WILKINSON (Western Australia) - I regret that I have not been able to express an opinion prior to this moment on the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. As you are aware, Mr President, I have already spoken to the second reading of the Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1972 and I must direct- my remarks now to the amendment. Looking at this amendment, the Labor Party is not prepared to accept this expression of view that the Federal estate duty should be eliminated. As was rightly said by only one member of the Government, estate duty was introduced by the Australian Labor Party because of its philosophy. It must be remembered that, at the time when this duty was introduced, the value of properties was nothing like the value of properties of similar size and condition today. Over the years, the situation has changed. Although our philosophy has not changed, our attitude to the depth to which estate duty should operate has had to be amended.

On ever occasion when this matter has come before the Senate we have moved an amendment that an inquiry should be held into the situation regarding estate duty. On 18th August last year, over 12 months ago, Senator Davidson gave notice in this chamber of his intention to move for the reference of the matter of estate and like duties to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations and this reference was directed to the Committee by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) some little time later. Nothing further was done. We have not had a report from that Committee.

This is a tremendously important matter. We do require some guidance as to what would be the Committee's findings on estate duty. I have had to delay making any statement until an opportunity was available to me to move the amendment that I now propose to outline. I had hurriedly prepared an amendment and had it ready for distribution. I had given one copy to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and another copy to the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.

At the direction of the Clerk minor alterations had to be made to the amendment. These have now been made. Therefore, I move:

Delete all words after 'Senate', and insert: 'is of the opinion that the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations should bring down its report on "the effects of estate and like duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequences of such duties" at an early date'.

It astounds me that every member on the Government side who has spoken has said that he will support the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. This is not the policy of the Government at the moment. The Government has introduced Bills to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act, the Gift Duty Act and the Gift Duty Assessment Act. It seems to me most peculiar that not one Government speaker has supported the Government's Bills without saying: 'I also support the abolition of anything to do with estate duty'.

Senator Young - Why not?

Senator WILKINSON -Good heavens! You cannot have it both ways. You can only have it one way. You cannot say: T support these 3 Bills introduced by the Government', ' which means that you support estate duty and gift duty and are supporting the Government and then turn around and say: T support the amendment moved by Senator Byrne' which reads: but the Senate expresses the view that the Government should consider as soon as possible the complete elimination of Federal estate duty'.

What I am suggesting is that the point of view expressed by this Senate last year - it was supported- by all sides, of the House - was to the effect that this matter should be referred to an existing Senate Standing Committee. We agreed on this proposal. This matter has been referred to that Committee. Is that not the proper way to do this? The Opposition is perfectly happy with this inquiry being conducted. It has supported it. We have not had any chance of amending any relevant legislation. To date we have not been in a position to do so. We will do something about the position very shortly.

The amendment that I have moved really puts the whole situation in the way in which it should be presented. It reflects the attitude expressed previously by the Senate. We have directed our Standing Committee on Finance and. Government Operations to look at this matter of estate and like duties. Senator Byrne's amendment asks the Senate to say to the Committee: 'We do not want you to look at this matter because we want to wipe out any aspect .of estate duty at all'. I will leave it at that. I cannot see anything else which, in conscience, the Senate could do but support my amendment which is in line with the Senate's expressed view and wish. All I am asking is that the Senate support my amendment which provides that the Senate is of the opinion that the Senate Standing Committee should report at an early date. It is in excess of 12 months since this reference was proposed by Senator Davidson, who has now entered the Senate. He introduced it on 18th August last year. The matter was directed to the Committee on 7th October last year. We await with eagerness the results of the deliberation of that Committee in the form of its report. For those reasons, I have moved my amendment.

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