Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Bills

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; In Committee

8:46 pm

Photo of James PatersonJames Paterson (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I just want to make what I'm sure now will be my final observation on this issue, which is of course that the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission are members of the executive. It is their role to apply the law as they understand it. It is not their role to decide what the law is; that is the role of the courts. There have been many times in the past where the ATO, for example, have incorrectly applied the law and the courts have subsequently corrected them and directed them to apply the law in a different way. So an assurance from a current commissioner of the ATO that this is how he intends to apply the law while he is at the ATO only speaks to his time at the ATO and does not speak to how a court will choose to interpret this law.

It's our job as parliamentarians, as Senator Abetz says, to put these matters beyond doubt. If we want to have more assurance than just the word of the current ATO commissioner, if we want to be absolutely sure that these charities will continue to enjoy after this bill passes the same legal protections that they do today, there's only one path to do that and that is by voting for these amendments.

The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) to (5) on sheet 8329, moved by Senator Paterson, be agreed to.

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