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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 7 October 2021) . . Page.. 2947 ..


Generally speaking, once a disallowable instrument is presented to the Legislative Assembly an MLA has six sitting days in which to move a motion for its disallowance. This is in stark contrast to the scrutiny available to the community and to this Assembly for the passage of a bill. There is a mile of difference between the two levels of adequate scrutiny. To allow a deferral exemption or rebate is a very significant benefit and would ordinarily apply to a select part of the tax community, or to a select aspect of a tax liability. As pointed out by the scrutiny committee, this raises the issue of inequitable treatment of taxpayers. Favourable tax treatment deserves full and open scrutiny. It is a significant decision to make, which is much better provided, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Canberra Liberals, by the passage of a bill, as opposed to the relatively short time frame for scrutiny of a disallowable instrument.

Finally, emergency measure enacted to manage the COVID-19 outbreak should not be automatically carried over to the post COVID-19 period, let alone with fewer restrictions on their exercise, unless the changes are beneficial to the community as a whole, as is contained in the bulk of the bill. So, based on the principles of good governance, the Canberra Liberals cannot support part 11, clauses 24 to 40 of this bill. Such gross ministerial overreach should be resisted.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (6.06): Whilst Mr Cain has raised some important points, the government does not agree with his analysis of the provisions that are contained in the bill. I made some earlier remarks, but I will go to them in a little more detail now, given the observations that Mr Cain made.

It is important to note that the provisions currently in the Tax Administration Act are generic versions of powers that largely exist, in a bespoke fashion, across various pieces of revenue legislation. Each of these bespoke powers that exists at the moment has a different method of deciding, and may require decisions to be effected by a disallowable instrument or a notifiable instrument, or in fact have no notification requirement at all.

The proposal for an ongoing generic set of powers does not significantly enlarge the powers conferred on the Treasurer. The method of accountability, being a disallowable instrument which requires the inclusion of a human rights compatibility statement is at the high-water mark for ministerial decision-making—higher than all other similar powers in other revenue legislation. It is quite important to think about the different approaches, because this new approach provides for clearer expectations and more accountability without an enlargement of power.

This is clearly observable in comparison to New South Wales, which effected its land tax tenancy rebate scheme through act of grace payments. These are available all the time but are neither notified to the parliament nor able to be disallowed. This is quite an important point. This legislation actually implements the requirement for disallowable instruments for quite a number of these legislative provisions, some of which do not have that at the moment. They could go through on a simple notifiable instrument, which this Assembly has no recourse to.


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