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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 3509

Mr HAYES (11:56 AM) —I rise today to lend my support to the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 Measures No. 2) Bill 2010 It is timely to have the opportunity to speak on this bill, only days after the government delivered what can only be described as a responsible budget that will strengthen our economy, help families and secure our economic future. I for one am proud, Mr Deputy Speaker, as no doubt you are, to be a member of a responsible government that has taken steps to halve the peak debt with a view to bringing our budget back to surplus within three years. I would have thought that is something to be applauded and congratulated by those opposite. I would like to hear tonight, as we line-up to hear the Leader of the Opposition, how he intends to support that noble aim of delivering, for the Australian people, a budget back into surplus.

Let us not forget that bringing it back into surplus within three years, given the fact that we have faced the worst economic crisis in 75 years is something that should not be easily forgotten. It comes on top of very decisive decision-making to keep our economy strong, to protect jobs, during this financial crisis. This is real action that has certainly made a difference, particularly where I come from in the south-west of Sydney. I note the Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek, at the table. She has visited my electorate on a number of occasions to look at job-creating programs in social housing. It not only makes a difference for creating jobs in those areas, but also makes a real difference to the lives of people in the south-west of Sydney who are in need of social housing. So on behalf of those people, Minister, I do thank you.

Many families, seniors and young people have benefited from our Nation Building Program, a package that was, let us not forget, opposed at every opportunity by the opposition. Let us not forget, also, that these actions took place in face of the world’s worst global economic crisis in 75 years. These were a world wide set of challenges that this government met head on, with a view to taking positive steps to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

I look forward to seeing, tonight, just how the opposition plans to cut government spending. They certainly talk tough from that side of the House and we will all be listening, and no doubt the rest of the Australian population will, as to how the alternative Prime Minister of this country plans to lead this country forward. That cannot take place on rhetoric alone.

One of the things I did speak briefly about was the creation of jobs. Building the Education Revolution has had an impact on 9,500 schools throughout the country. In my electorate of Werriwa alone, over $100,000 has been spent at over 60 schools on much-needed community infrastructure projects, including the upgrading of sporting fields, community centres and new playgrounds. Our partnerships with local government—in my case, Liverpool and Campbelltown—have been very good and very constructive. Through its partnership with local government, the government not only has produced this much-needed community infrastructure in a timely way but, most importantly, has created jobs for our people.

One of the other very significant things in south-western Sydney is the $140 million upgrade of the Hume Highway, the F5 project, in my electorate. I was very happy that NACE, a local engineering company based in Liverpool, got that work. One other thing I would like to mention is the $8 million we committed to upgrade the Campbelltown City Stadium. It was my pleasure to open the stadium on 2 May for the first home game between the Wests Tigers and the Eastern Suburbs Roosters. As a one-eyed Tigers supporter, I was extremely disappointed that the Tigers did not win their first game at the venue. But the players, the broadcasters and everyone who turned up on the day—and it was a capacity crowd—all appreciated the renovations and new facilities established at the stadium. These are things that governments working with communities can do. The Campbelltown City Stadium was a partnership arrangement we entered into with the local government. That is what a federal government should be doing—creating local infrastructure and local jobs by empowering those who have the plans and the equipment to deliver these projects in a timely way.

Last week I had the opportunity to open the Minto Public School facility. It was one of the first commenced and first completed school based projects. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister has visited this school twice. He went out there to do the turning of the sod for this particular school. It was very good to see this project come to fruition. I congratulate the principal, Vickie Craze, the parents and the tradespeople who worked on the site to deliver this very important project. I also recognise all those in the school community who have been involved with it, particularly Fiona Fernandez, from the P&C. This shows what we can do if we decide to work constructively and cooperatively. I also congratulate the two school captains—Jasmin Sofatu and Rachel Bonig.

I know what those projects are doing across my area and I also know about the jobs they are creating. My youngest son, Jonathan, a carpenter/builder, has been putting up schools all around the countryside. I have seen what he and many of the young people who live locally and work with him are doing. They are building in my immediate area and also travelling around. This is creating jobs, building our schools and creating skill sets for the future of which we can be justifiably proud.

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to visit Cabramatta High School with the Deputy Prime Minister to see firsthand how a project was being rolled out. Given that this visit was during the school holidays, I was particularly impressed that a lot of the students turned up in school uniform to meet the Deputy Prime Minister and proudly show off their school. I thank the principal, Beth Goodwin, and the school captains, Andrew Kouch and Diana Nguyen, for their warm welcome. I was very impressed to see young people so committed to what they are doing and looking to the future. They know that education is the way ahead to participate in our economy in the future.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I know that you have been waiting for me to return to the bill, and I will do that now. I will always support a bill that benefits the Australian people, particularly those in my region, which is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. This bill makes a number of amendments, which I will address individually. The amendments in schedule 1 will amend the non-commercial loans rules in division 7A of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. The amendments will prevent shareholders of private companies, or associates of those shareholders, from accessing free dividends from the use of company assets for less than their market value. Other technical amendments are also being made in that schedule to strengthen the non-commercial loans rules and to ensure that they operate in accordance with the original policy intent. This measure is designed to remove the inconsistent treatment between shareholders and employees of private companies to ensure that the shareholders of private companies pay their fair share of tax. It is estimated that the saving from this measure alone will be some $30 million over the forward estimates.

Schedule 2 improves the fairness and integrity of the tax system by extending the current tax file number withholding arrangements to closely held trusts, including family trusts. This measure will improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system by equipping the Taxation Office with the information necessary to data match the amounts distributed by trustees of closely held trusts and family trusts with amounts reported in the beneficiary’s income tax return. This measure will extend the existing tax file number withholding system to shed light on amounts distributed by closely held trusts and family trusts and identify unreported income to ensure that beneficiaries of trusts pay their fair share of tax.

Schedule 3, in accordance with previous budget announcements and to provide legal certainty, is proposed to exempt from income tax the value of the HECS-HELP benefit to eligible recipients. The HECS-HELP benefit provides certain maths, science, teaching and nursing graduates who go on to work in related occupations a refund of around half their HECS-HELP repayments for up to five years. Ensuring the value of the benefit is tax exempt provides support for this valuable program. This amendment is being introduced to provide certainty to taxpayers. It was never intended that the value of the HECS-HELP benefit would be included as assessable income and subject to income tax. The ATO have advised that currently no taxpayers have had to pay tax on the value of a HECS-HELP benefit received. This amendment will clarify the position to ensure that situation remains.

Schedule 4—an important amendment—amends the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to specifically list two new organisations as deductible gift recipients and extend the time another organisation can receive deductible gifts. The schedule specifically lists two new organisations. The Bali Peace Park Association will create a peace park on the land where the bomb was detonated in Bali on 12 October 2002 and where, tragically, 202 people were killed, including 88 Australians. The other organisation named is the Sichuan Earthquake Surviving Children’s Education Fund—you will recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, that dreadful earthquake in China—which will provide assistance in the reconstruction of schools in that province following that earthquake on 12 May 2008. It also extends the period in which the Yachad Accelerated Learning Project Ltd can collect deductible gifts. These important amendments will allow these organisations to collect tax deductible gifts and provide them with certainty about their tax status in the future.

Schedule 5 amends the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. These amendments will make the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute income tax exempt for a four-year period. Carbon capture and storage is one of the fundamental components of clean coal technology. Australia being one of the largest if not the largest exporter of coal, we are doing a lot of research and development into carbon capture and storage or geosequestration in order for it to operate more efficiently. This institute will be income tax exempt for a predetermined period of four years. This institute was formally launched by the Prime Minister on 16 April 2009. The institute is a non-profit organisation that aims to accelerate the development and global adoption of safe as well as commercially and environmentally sustainable carbon capture and storage technology. The information and expertise developed by the institute is to be disseminated broadly and globally to the benefit of both the Australian and the global carbon capture and storage communities. Supporting the institute by making it income tax exempt is a part of the government’s strategy to mitigate the risks of climate change.

Schedule 6 repeals over 100 provisions of tax law that provide the commissioner with an unlimited period to make amendments to taxpayers’ assessments. By repealing these provisions, it will limit the relevant amendment periods to the standard two- and four-year periods. The removal of these unlimited amendment periods will assist in providing more certainty to taxpayers in their taxation affairs and contribute to reducing the volume of unnecessary provisions in our tax laws. I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—I thank the member for Werriwa for his contribution. Out of interest, in schedule 4 you were discussing the earthquake in China and I have visited the site in China where the terrible earthquake took place.