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- Start of Business
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT CHARGE AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- CUSTOMS TARIFF AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) 1998
- VETERANS' AFFAIRS AMENDMENT (MALE TOTAL AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS BENCHMARK) BILL 1997
- TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 4) 1998
TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 7) 1997
- Second Reading
- Consideration in Detail
- CHAMBER PROCEEDINGS: PHOTOGRAPHS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Bartlett, Kerry, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Lee, Michael, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Draper, Trish, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Lee, Michael, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Nelson, Dr Brendan, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
- Aged Care
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Billson, Bruce, MP, Ruddock, Philip, MP)
(Lee, Michael, MP, Evans, Richard, MP)
(Lee, Michael, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
(Kelly, Jackie, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Hindmarsh Island Bridge Case
(Gallus, Christine, MP, Howard, John, MP)
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR BANKS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT
- ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER HERITAGE PROTECTION BILL 1998
- BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- ASSENT TO BILLS
- TELSTRA (TRANSITION TO FULL PRIVATE OWNERSHIP) BILL 1998
- National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values
- Aged Care
- Industrial Awards
- Grafton Meatworks
- Economic Rationalism
- Aged Care
Hindmarsh Island Bridge
National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values
- Start of Business
- STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
- CHILD SUPPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Child-care Centre: Joint Venture
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
Department of Defence: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Grants
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Department of Veterans' Affairs: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Grants
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Scott, Bruce, MP)
Cartage and Transport Contracts
(Tanner, Lindsay, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Department of Veterans' Affairs: North Queensland Office
(Ferguson, Laurie, MP, Scott, Bruce, MP)
ANZAC Ships Project
(Morris, Allan, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
- Child-care Centre: Joint Venture
Thursday, 2 April 1998
Mr BRADFORD (11:24 AM) —I was interested to listen to the member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), a former Treasurer, to get the benefit of his wisdom on some of these subjects. Unfortunately, I think all we got was a tirade of criticism of what the government is intending to do in this legislation and very little credit. In his criticism of the government's savings measures announced in this legislation there is only all of the negative side and the down side. The question being posed is: will it work or won't it work? The point is that something had to be done to address the level of savings in Australia. The question I ask the member for Gellibrand is: what did you do? You were in government for 13 years and you were a former Treasurer.
Mr Willis —I just told you what we did.
Mr BRADFORD —I listened to what you tried to tell us you did and there were not any answers there. But if you look at the facts and the figures, you will find that Australia's savings rates during the years you were in government hovered at extremely low levels—and I am looking at household savings rates for OECD countries—in fact, they trended down from 6.8 in 1983 to below five through the 1994, 1995 and 1996 years.
So Australia has a very serious problem. When you look at these figures and put them in the OECD context, the picture is pretty bleak when you compare Australia's savings performance with, say, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom or South Korea prior to the economic problems it is experiencing at the moment. In comparison with those countries and others in the OECD, Australia has performed very poorly indeed in respect of its savings rates. I do not think the member for Gellibrand has a great deal of credibility in being entirely negative about the government's proposal.
Mr Bevis —Oh, you are joking!
Mr BRADFORD —The truth hurts, I am sure. Something had to be done and something is being done. I think most people applaud these particular measures. Not only did we hear criticism of what we are doing but I do not think we got much of an indication of what you would actually do to address the problem. I am sure you have acknowledged that there is a problem with Australia's savings rates, but we did not hear—and we do not hear much—about Labor Party polices. There is a lot of criticism. Maybe that is the way you see opposition. I suppose in opposition it is an easy trap to fall into—to constantly criticise what the government is doing—and up to a point that is legitimate. But acknowledging that there is a problem with Australia's savings rates, let us hear a little bit more policy from the Labor Party; let us hear what they would do to address the problem rather than coming in here and trying to tell us that what the government is doing to address the problem will not work. So I applaud what the government is doing in this legislation to encourage people to save, because that is obviously something that is desperately needed.
The other issue the member for Gellibrand concentrated on at some length in his contribution was criticism of the government's proposal to introduce choice of superannuation fund for employees. Again I think he was slightly disingenuous in his criticism of that proposal. We on this side acknowledge and understand the complexities of those arrangements. The difficulties that they may create for employers are, of course, uppermost in our minds. It will introduce some difficulties for employers, but what we need to really look at here is the intention of these proposals in terms of creating competition and in terms ultimately of providing a better deal for employees. That is the priority.
The member for Gellibrand can talk all he likes about shonky insurance salesmen, as I think he described them. We are all subject to the risk of dealing, I suppose, with shonky sales people. People need to be educated and need to be aware of the opportunities, but let me put to bed the suggestion that the opposition are concerned about freedom of choice for those reasons. They are concerned about freedom of choice because it is simply going to break down the very cosy arrangements that they put in place in respect of superannuation contributions whereby all of their union mates were the benefactors of the systems that they put in place.
Why wouldn't they have put those systems in place? It meant that millions—maybe even billions—of dollars were going to flow directly or indirectly into union coffers or into funds that were controlled to a large extent by the trade unions. We are not necessarily introducing this system only to break down that cosy arrangement, but it does, quite correctly, have that effect. It will give employees the sort of choice that I believe they ought to have.
It is actually quite patronising for the Labor Party to talk in the terms that they do—that individual Australians, employees, are not capable of making choices. In other words, the Labor Party's attitude to so many things is that the government can do better for us than we can do for ourselves. That really shows the huge ideological divide which still exists between those of us on this side of the House and those who sit in the opposition.
We simply do not want to patronise people. We want to give them choices. They certainly have to understand that the choices need to be educated and informed. We simply take the view that people are capable of making those choices, that they ought to make those choices and that when they make those choices they will make them consistent with their own objectives and their ideas about where they should put their money, which, after all, is also what we are talking about in this context. I really get quite excited when I hear those in the Labor Party talking about some of these things because it is never too difficult to read between the lines and see what the real agenda is. For speaker after speaker opposite to come in here and criticise the government without giving us the benefit of their alternatives for solving some of these problems really is a bit rich.
I will turn briefly to a number of elements of this legislation that I want to speak to specifically. People listening to this debate probably get the impression that it is all terribly technical. People ought to know that with this legislation the government is doing some very simple things yet things which will be enormously worth while and welcomed by all Australians.
This legislation provides for the introduction of tax deductibility for donations to the Australian services nurses national memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra. That is something that I particularly welcome. I am sure that all members of this House and all Aus tralians would be pleased to know about this measure. The memorial is a very worthwhile project. It is temporarily in place at the moment. I am very pleased to be able to tell people, if they are not aware, that tax deductibility for donations to the memorial trust will be in place from 3 September 1997 until 4 September 1999. Hopefully, people will be encouraged to make donations to that trust because they are tax deductible and that will enable the project to proceed and to be completed on schedule. That is something that I know will be strongly supported.
One other measure covered in this legislation—and there are a large number of fairly minor or technical matters but nevertheless people will be interested to know about them—is the capital gains tax register. There are a number of parts of this legislation which the government is bringing forward in response to the work done by the Small Business Deregulation Task Force. This is just another concession to small business. It may be minor of itself, but I think it adds to the very correct perception that people ought to have—that is, that this government is concerned to assist the small business community wherever possible.
This particular measure was highlighted in that inquiry by the Small Business Deregulation Task Force. It brought forward a number of recommendations, some of which are implemented in this legislation. This particular measure means that taxpayers should no longer have to keep source documents for unreasonable periods of time. Instead they will only need to retain source documents for five years after the details have been extended into the asset register and certified by a registered tax agent or other person approved by the commissioner.
The proposal was announced in the government's response, appropriately entitled More Time for Business, to the original task force report. Whilst these sorts of requirements that have been imposed on small businesses over the years are not great in isolation, when looked at in a cumulative sense they probably add up to some hours of work each week for the small business person. The government has, quite correctly, been at great pains to reduce the workload on small business as far as record keeping and a range of other impositions are concerned. This particular piece of legislation brings into effect a number of the recommendations of that Small Business Deregulation Task Force. I welcome them.
I have a constituency made up of many small businesses, mainly focused on the tourism industry. When I visit them, as I do whenever I have a chance, they never fail to raise with me the issue of the record keeping requirements placed on them and the complexity of taxation laws and other laws. Inevitably, complying with regulations takes time. For small business—and we are talking about small to medium micro-businesses—time is money. Any time that is required to be taken to fill out forms for government or to keep records involves either employing someone to do it, which very small business cannot afford to do these days, or someone working long hours as virtually every small business person has to do these days to meet the requirements of the law. I welcome, my constituents will welcome and I suspect most people in this place will welcome the changes that respond to the concerns of small business.
I mentioned earlier the savings rebate. I have already made a few comments in response to what the member for Gellibrand said in his contribution. I refute strongly his contention that this is not a good measure. He quoted the figure for the cost of this measure. I accept that this is a very expensive measure. It will cost $350 million in 1998-99, $1.370 million in 1999-2000 and over $2 billion in 2000-01.
It is a very expensive measure. In that respect, it is a very generous measure, and, frankly, it remains to be seen whether it will work. But the bottom line most of us recognise is that Australians save too little and need to be encouraged to save. Many people in my community have been saying to me for years, `If you want to encourage people to save, you have to have tax incentives in place through the tax system which will achieve that objective.' That is what this legislation does. You can argue that it does not go far enough—and in time it will go further—but it is a start and it will encourage savings. Hopefully, it will have the effect of reversing the trend that I referred to earlier in those OECD figures which show the very concerning and consistent low rates of saving in Australia over many years compared to those in many of the other OECD countries.
The problem we have in Australia is not only low savings but also high debt. In a sense, I suppose one is the corollary of the other but, whether you look at it on a national level or a household level, we as Australians are heavily in debt. That presents us with problems not only at a household level but also as a national economy. Much of the government's good work that has been done since it was elected has been aimed at fixing the latter—that is, making sure that Australia's public and private debt levels are brought under control.
On a household level, we all know that people use credit cards extensively these days. In fact, there is almost a whole different approach now to the use of credit. My parents saved for the things they wanted. It was my generation that suffered the bankcard in the mail syndrome. From then on, we thought we did not need to save for anything, so we did not save and today we have these horrific levels of debt, both personally and nationally. It is quite correct that the government should do, as it has done, everything within its power to reduce debt levels.
The savings rebate, which is at a rate of 15 per cent—except in 1998-99 it will be 7.5 per cent—will apply to a wide range of savings vehicles, which I will not go into now, up to an annual cap of $3,000. The rebate will be available for earnings from a wide range of savings and investment vehicles. The measure is intended to provide a fair incentive to save which allows individuals to choose the form most suited to their needs, recognising that individuals need to save for lifestyle needs as well as retirement.
My electorate is dominated by retired people, and I have a great concern about saving for retirement. There is an urgent need to encourage people to save for their retirement in order for them to achieve a higher standard of living than they would otherwise enjoy if they did not. We have an ageing population and a shrinking tax base, and it does not take much to realise that those two competing ends create a serious problem for the government. To its credit, to some extent the previous government saw the problem and worked towards a whole range of policies which would encourage people to save for their retirement—and that is the main point of this particular piece of legislation.
I talk to many people in my electorate, including so-called self-funded retirees, or members of the Association of Independent Retirees, with whom I meet in my office regularly. The irony is that, having saved for their retirement, they are actually worse off than they would have been if they had not saved. I have put a lot of effort into my work here in this place over the last eight years to redress some of that imbalance, and the government, to its credit, has recognised that imbalance in a number of ways—increasing the effective tax free threshold for low income self-funded retirees and developing health care rebates, as inadequate and ineffective as they appear to have been. A whole range of issues have been addressed to assist particularly low income self-funded retirees.
Many of them are able to demonstrate that, having done the right thing all their lives, they have ended up being worse off than they might otherwise have been if they had not saved for their retirement. I believe the government has a primary responsibility to provide a situation where people are secure in their retirement. It is very saddening for me to meet people, as I frequently do, who have saved and who are now very insecure in their retirement and have great difficulty making ends meet. More needs to be done to give those people security. For future generations and, to some extent, for existing retirees, the savings rebates will have some effect, but more must be done.
In the reform of the tax system, which the government is embarking on—again, much to its credit because the former government found that much too hard—it is imperative that the needs of independent retirees be addressed. I support a number of the recom mendations they have made as an association to the tax consultative task force, such as increasing the effective tax free threshold to at least $10,000. In 1987, the tax free threshold was $4,890. It has moved up to only $5,400 at this stage. It has not moved anywhere near the same rate as average weekly earnings.
I could go on at length about my concern particularly for independent retirees. I did want to say one or two other things, but my time will shortly expire. Finally, I want to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) for his announcement today of support for the carers within Australian society, and I note that the government will spend $270 million over the next four years to assist the aged achieve some of their desires to be secure in their retirement and to remain in their own homes. (Time expired)