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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4307


Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (13:10): I do not think anyone has ever been as pleased as the Minister for Finance to see a message from the House. I do not think we all understood how happy we would be to see the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Fees Imposition Amendment (Fee Streamlining and Other Measures) Bill 2017 since it arrived this morning. I think it is worth commenting on the fact that more than 20 bills have passed this chamber in the last two or three days. The Senate has been hard at work doing its job.

I do rise to speak in support of this bill. The bill gives effect to the government's 2017-18 budget measure to streamline fees for foreign investment in business. The bill intends to simplify the foreign investment fee framework, minimise regulatory burden and allow the foreign investment framework to operate more efficiently. From 1 July 2017, a series of fees will be modified, with increases due to indexation and the creation of new fee tier structures as well as the simplifying of existing fee tier structures involved. These changes will simplify and streamline the existing fee structures in the fees act, and better align fees payable with consideration paid to the relevant acquisition through a simplification of fee tiers and the introduction of flat fees for various acquisition types. Stakeholders have noted that different fees for different transaction categories have created complexities and caused delays in ascertaining the correct fee, which in turn delays processing. Some acquisitions are subject to multitiered fees—for example, agricultural land—and other transactions are subject to flatter fee type tiers such as with business acquisition like the acquisition of mining or production tenements. Further, a number of low-value transactions are subject to fees disproportionate to the value of the transaction.

According to the explanatory memorandum, the amendments are informed by a public consultation process and stakeholder feedback, and they implement the preferred option of a flatter fee structure and legislated fee-relief arrangements. The fee regulation will also be amended to give effect to the changes to simplify the commercial fees framework. The explanatory memorandum to the bill further states that amendments to streamline and simplify the commercial fee framework will not apply to the framework for residential property. However, there are amendments that increase residential property fees, which are said to fund the implementation of the Critical Infrastructure Centre.

The changes to the fee framework are broadly revenue neutral, with a small cost to revenue of $400,000 over the forward estimates. Some examples of fee changes under the bill include the fee for applying for an exemption certificate for new dwellings that will increase from $25,000 to $25,700. There will be a 10 per cent increase to the six-monthly fee paid by developers for developing new dwelling acquisitions made by foreign persons under the exemption certificate provided the consideration for each new dwelling is $10 million less. The fees applying for an exemption certificate for foreign persons will be streamlined into a single fee of $35,000 from the current two-tier structure of $25,000 for consideration of purchases less than $1 billion and $100,000 for consideration for purchases more than $1 billion.

Labor will always support sensible streamlining measures and a robust investment framework. I presume that there will be other speakers to this bill, because my comments are rather brief. I am going to leave it there. I think all of us are very happy to have seen the message arise and for this bill to come before the Senate, none more so than the government, who—I do not know how—have managed to stuff up their program so the Senate almost ran out of business just before.