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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6579


Mr BILLSON (Dunkley) (11:39): Don't things move quickly? I would like to congratulate the Assistant Treasurer, the Flash Gordon of legislative drafting, for the turnaround time of this Tax Laws Amendment (2013 Measures No. 3) Bill 2013. I emphasise measure 3 because you may recall, Deputy Speaker, it was a gripping debate. I hope the case was persuasively argued last week that the coalition were deeply unhappy with aspects of Tax Laws Amendment (2013 Measures No. 2) Bill 2013. We detailed those concerns and our unhappiness and disquiet with the government's chaotic handling of that version of the bill. We moved to excise two schedules from that earlier bill in relation to changes to the Tax Agents Services Act 2009, or TASA as it is referred to around this place. Today the government is now reintroducing these two schedules in the form of a revised bill following useful, meaningful and constructive consultation with the opposition. I thank the Assistant Treasurer for that.

Some of these measures are very time-sensitive and that is why there has been a very collaborative, cooperative response between the opposition and the Assistant Treasurer. I would like to recognise and praise the Assistant Treasurer for his work and also the shadow minister Senator Mathias Cormann for the way in which the offices on the different sides of the parliament have interacted. As a result of that, I suppose we could say that we had a couple of options: to do CPR on a piece of legislation whose vital signs were getting very weak, or to start afresh. We have chosen to go down the fresher pathway—and that is the bill before us that the Assistant Treasurer introduced about an hour and a half ago. Wasn't it about an hour and a half ago, Assistant Treasurer? So here we are having the debate now.

We are pleased that the coalition can support the government's reforms and revisions to the bill. The government appears to have listened to the concerns that the coalition have raised and the sound reasoning behind them and have agreed to a number of the coalition's demands to amend and improve the legislation that we discussed last week. This includes an agreement with the government to extend the current exemption for financial advisers under TASA to 30 June 2014—a sensible measure, given where we are in the calendar this year; defer the implementation of proposed changes to TASA for financial advisers by 12 months to 1 July 2014; and clarify the scope of tax and financial advice changes—that is, the definition—and its interaction with the current TASA regime in the explanatory memorandum consistent with the agreement entered into between Senator Cormann and the Assistant Treasurer.

Also, it explicitly exempts a series of relevant financial services in TASA's regulations 2009, which should never have been captured by the tax agent service regime in the first place. These include tax advice provided by a superannuation or pension fund pursuant to the issue of a payment summary, from advice provided showing where to report the tax information to enable a member to complete their tax return to general advice the member may rely on for entitlement and financial decisions. This also includes general advice provided by a superannuation fund's representative pursuant to intrafund advice provisions and advice provided by an insurer pursuant to payments of income protection and salary continuance insurance payments and corresponding issues of payment summary and advice therein. Also, it was a smart move to exempt advice provided by managed investment schemes pursuant to the buying and selling of registered interest, which may give rise to capital gains tax, and general advice provided therein by the responsible entity to the investor client and also other such relevant advice which may be identified in the course of consultation on that regulatory change.

The coalition still have a number of concerns in relation to practical issues but not directly related to this actual legislative proposal before us. Should the coalition earn the support of the Australian public to form government at the next election, we intend to deal with a number of those issues over which we still hold serious reservations. An example of this would be making sure the operation of the legislation is consistent with the requirements under the 'best interests duty' under the Future of Financial Advice changes and a range of other issues. Based on the agreement the coalition have reached with the government, we will now support this legislation. Frankly, it should not have been this hard to impose a proper process on the government in relation to these policy changes. It just shows how proper process, consultation and collaboration can produce a far better result rather than the earlier version, which could be characterised as typically chaotic, disjointed and somewhat ham-fisted.

A few weeks ago the government wanted to ram these changes through without even a parliamentary inquiry. The government also wanted to impose significant regulatory change again on the important financial services industry with fewer than two weeks to go prior to the implementation of those changes. While the government did not even want an inquiry two weeks ago, this week it has seen sense. It rolled over on sensible, necessary and non-negotiable requests from the coalition for change to the original proposal. A competent government would have seen the sense in these proposals much earlier—straightaway, in fact—but as they say, better late than never, and we have managed to get a more meaningful and constructive interaction between the various sides of the parliament.

Schedule 3 of this bill seeks to add both the Australian Council of Social Service Inc., otherwise known as ACOSS, and Make a Mark Australia to the list of deductible gift recipients in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. We support these additions and, indeed, the passage of this bill through the parliament. We are encouraged by the more collaborative approach that has been adopted of late to these changes being advanced by the government.