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Tuesday, 28 September 1999
Page: 10748

Mr NEHL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Would the minister inform the House of the specific benefits that will flow to family farms from the government's new business tax reforms?

Mr TRUSS (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the honourable member for Cowper for that very important question and acknowledge his particular interest in family farmers, who make up the backbone of our agricultural sector. About 99½ per cent of our 85,000 broadacre and dairy farms in Australia are family owned. Like all other small business operators, farmers have little time to do paperwork, and they are looking forward to the new tax system which will sweep away much of the administrative costs that have been associated with managing their business. For instance, with respect to depreciation—a tax concession which has to date been unnecessarily complex for farmers and small business—under the new tax reforms announced recently, farmers will be able to manage their depreciation on a pooled basis with a 30 per cent rate of depreciation. That rate is equal to or better than they have been able to claim in the past and it is certainly a far simpler system for them to operate.

In addition, assets costing less than $1,000 will be able to be written off immediately. Labor's capital gains tax, which placed such a burden on the rural sector and certainly saw farm assets swept away when people wanted to retire, will be significantly relaxed. The complete removal of capital gains tax on assets held for more than 15 years by individual retiring farmers will be a particular bonus. The President of the National Farmers Federation has pointed out that around 70 per cent of farmers have owned their properties for 15 years.

So that is all very good news. I am sure that honourable members who are in regional areas and those opposite who occasionally visit regional areas very much appreciate the message they are getting from people about what a wonderful reception this package has received. I would think that, particularly, the member for Dickson would be interested in these matters because she has not had much time, she tells us, to visit regional areas lately. So I am passing on this information to her to save her the trouble. I also know she has not had much time to visit her electorate. So perhaps the small businessmen there have not had a chance to pass the news along. But I want to assure her, in case she has gone to sleep over the last week or so, that there has been some very good news in the regional sector. Graham Richardson was complaining this morning that the honourable member for Dickson seems to have disappeared and nobody can find her. She has disappeared off the radar screen, according to Graham Richardson.

Mr SPEAKER —Minister, the answer has no relevance to the question. The minister will resume his seat.