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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7759

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (8:59 PM) —The amendments are to put aside some assertions that have been placed out there that dealing with the regulations had no effect. I truly believe, on the advice of the Clerk and of other bodies, that the regulations were made inoperable and that, therefore, the legislation would have been inoperable had it been passed. But, had that not been the case, the amendments certainly put the argument to rest. They reach into the tax legislation and expunge the article that gives the deduction. They clarify beyond any question the effect of the legislation. If people argued before that they were not going to support the disallowance of the regulations because that would have no effect, then they will support the amendments because they definitely do have that effect. Without a shadow of a doubt, they have that effect.

What we are dealing with here is people saying that they have advice from the taxation department and they have advice from this body, advice from that body and advice from some other extraneous body, except this chamber. The primary document, the ultimate document, is the legislation itself. That is it. That is what is taken into consideration in a court of law, not the musings of some secondary body. If the musings of some secondary body were to stand and they were superior, there would be no point to this chamber. This chamber would be without cause, because all we would have to do is say: ‘Don’t stand for parliament. Stand for a position with the department of taxation. They are a superior body to the chamber.’ That is blatantly ridiculous. The primary document that you have to refer to is the legislation, and the legislation clearly says that capital expenditure is tax deductible, except for the drainage of swamps and the clearing of land. By reason that it says only ‘the draining of swamps and the clearing of land’, that is a presupposition that other things are deductible, and the other things that are deductible are the purchase of land.

In tax law there can only be capital or income. It is one category or the other. That is it. There is no third mysterious category. If it is a capital expenditure deduction, all the things that are defined by accountancy standards as capital become deductible, and that includes land. It is a capital expense amount. When you buy and sell land you are up for—wait for it—capital gains tax. Why? Because it is capital. If any other asset is determined to be covered by such a thing as the capital gains tax act then of course it would be a lay-down misere—it is going to be a capital deduction.

I am surprised in the extreme that people have now got an alternate definition of capital. I am waiting for the piece of legislation that proves this alternate definition of capital, but it is not here because it does not exist. And that is it: game, set, and match. It is either capital or income. This legislation says that capital deductions are deductions for the purpose of this act. Therefore, someone is going to wander into the High Court and say: ‘Land is capital. Land is covered by the capital gains tax act. Land in every other definition is capital; therefore, I argue my case that land should be accepted as a capital expense deduction because it is capital.’ I do not know who is going to argue against them. They will wander in with the legislation and say, ‘This is what the legislation says.’ Someone else is going to wander in with what? The musings of an extraneous body?

The primacy principle says that this chamber sits above the musings of other bodies. So why didn’t the government put into the legislation that land was excluded? If it can go to the effort of putting in ‘the draining of swamps’, what stops it from saying ‘the purchase of land’? What happened there? The minister knows and the powers that be know and the people who are sitting behind you in those dark corners telling you what to say know exactly what they want. You are playing their fiddle. You have agreed to them today. Now Senator Conroy will try to convince the chamber that there is actually a superior body to this chamber. That will be fascinating in the extreme.

We have other people saying, ‘I’ll support it but I would be ego pulling’—whatever that is. That uses the premise that, whenever the numbers are against you, you run away; whenever the numbers are hard, you run away; whenever the battle is difficult, you duck for cover. Sorry, that just does not wash with me. If you think something is right, it is right and you support it. And, if you think otherwise, you do not. If you make an alternate decision, that is a decision for you. But to come in here and say, ‘I would support it but I do not want to be ego pulling,’ is to try and cover up your tracks, and everybody can see through that in a jiffy.

This goes right back to the essence of the matter: the capital expense deduction for those who will create market differentiation. It is a capital expense deduction so that they can obtain an entitlement, a benefit, to be paid for by the working families—we heard that ad nauseam. The working families are going to pay for this capital expense deduction that the Labor Party have brought into this chamber, because the Labor Party have taken the budget into deficit; therefore, every deduction that some other body gets, somebody else pays for. And who is going to pay? The primary payer of tax is going to be the working men and women of this country, the working families, as salary and wage earners—the people that the minister is supposed to represent. You have that smarmy little smiley face of, ‘Oh, it’s so hilarious,’ because you are covering up the fact that you know that you are deceiving those people. You know exactly what you are doing. You could have changed it.

I do not believe for one moment that, with the competencies that I think exist in the Labor Party, since 26 June—which was when this originally came up—you have not had the capacity to change it. You did not even make an attempt, except some pathetic, ridiculous referral to local government powers—so help me! That is as far as we got: if it contradicts local government and state government ordinances, it is disallowed. There is no local government act that stops you from planting trees—and you know that.

So we had the opt-in, opt-out market theorist: the whole market theory is religion; it is so important; it is what it is all about; this is the new way the world works—except when we disagree with it, and then we create a complete set of market manipulation principles, where the biggest threat to communities is not the global economic crisis but government economic policy. Government economic policy becomes their biggest threat, because a certain manipulation and variance in the market is placed there by a piece of legislation that goes through this Senate. I think it is extraordinary that the people of Tully, the people down in the Riverland and the people of other towns are now at threat not because of the global economic meltdown but because of government taxation policy.

And why? Who is pulling the strings that made this happen? Who is pulling the strings that made this happen and, as a consequence, brings the smarmy smiles with it? That is an issue that needs to be considered. It shows that they are very influential people in how a nation is run. Follow the money and you will find the fault. I am supporting the amendments because, as Senator Milne has pointed out, there are a whole range of flaws in this. I acknowledge the sentiments that Senator Milne expressed with regard to the National Party—that they are probably driven by a completely different motive. But they both came to exactly the same outcome that this legislation is rubbish and that this is also part and parcel of it. So it is part and parcel of it and therefore it has to be knocked out.

There has to be a clear statement to the people of Australia that there are people in here with the conviction to see it as rubbish, call it rubbish and vote for it as if it is rubbish. That is what they are looking for. Such a statement would reignite their belief in this chamber as a democratic chamber. I note for the record that there are people here who have serious doubts about this. I note the last vote, where about 20 people did not turn up. That is a clear statement that there are concerns about this, and I acknowledge their concerns.

Senator Conroy interjecting—

Senator JOYCE —Not for one moment. I am only having a discussion and a bit of a concern about people who cloud the water with the so-called ego-pulling metaphor, which was completely not required. I acknowledge absolutely the convictions of some people, especially Senator Nash, who has given up her job as a shadow parliamentary secretary because of her belief in this. That is something that is decent and good and right—that people have that sort of conviction still; that people have the ability to look at the dignity of this chamber and to rise above what crumbs are offered to them and do what they think is right. That is refreshing to the Australian people. I also note some of the talkback that is happening on some of the radios, where Senator Nash is now a person who is placed in high esteem because of her conviction on this issue. And, once more, we get the smarmy smile. It might pay for dinner at Morocco’s, but it is not going to cut it with the Australian people.

If we go to the essence of this, this takes out something that is more or less a tax deduction for those who can afford it most, to be paid for by those who can afford it least—manipulated by those who have the most influence in this place. It tells a whole story: to bring about a sense of market manipulation which will bring about the further demise of regional towns. It makes a statement that food on the table for Australian working families is not worth as much as currying favour with certain corporate interests. It says to those who want to be part of this that their belief in certain peculiar and very small and very influential groups is really what they are on about. It says that there is a whole range of belief and structure that is easily put aside when the right people make the phone call.

I look forward to an explanation from the minister on just one thing. Why did you not exclude land from the legislation as being a capital expense deduction? Why did you have to rely on an extraneous body? Why did you not have the conviction to put that into the regulations and the guidelines, so we would not have to move this amendment? Why did you not do that? What stopped you? What was the process that made you come up with an idea that swamps and the clearing of land shall be specifically excluded—and that is where you stop? Was it that people said, ‘We have every intention to claim other things as capital expense deductions, so don’t put them in the legislation’? Was that the process?

Our position is that this is the first step on the path to an ETS. You cannot for one moment stick with the current guidelines and not support this, vote against this, and then say in another breath while with another group, a community of people, a group of friends, part of our caucus or part of your group in this chamber that you are somehow against the ETS—because you voted for it. When you vote for this legislation, you vote for an ETS. Your foot is on the sticky paper and you are on the path to it; you now believe in it. Your actions will always speak louder than your words.