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Monday, 25 June 2012
Page: 7734


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (19:29): I rise on behalf of the Australian Greens to raise a specific concern with this bill, the Tax Laws Amendment (Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax) Bill 2012—that is, the potential impacts of the bill on investment in low-carbon and renewable energy projects. It does not appear from the terms of the bill that it would have a particular impact on this area, but there have been some significant representations made by many in the sector that the current arrangements have been attractive to those overseas funds that are particularly interested in investing in areas where there might be higher ethical and sustainability standards than one might find in an ordinary investment.

The Australian Greens have received a letter from the Green Building Council of Australia, and I would like, if I might, to relate a couple of the points it makes. The chief executive, Ms Romilly Madew, and the executive director of advocacy, Mr Robin Mellon, make the point that:

The current withholding tax rate of 7.5 per cent has supported Australia's economic growth by encouraging investments in commercial property construction and critical infrastructure including low-carbon and renewable energy projects. The Property Council of Australia has identified that a priority of foreign investors, attracted by the lower withholding tax rate, has been high-grade buildings with strong green credentials.

They give some examples and then go on to say:

The Green Building Council of Australia supports any initiatives, programs or campaigns that encourage Australia's green building and sustainable community industry. The PCA research indicates that the increase in the WHT rate is likely to harm investment into Australia's green building future. The GBCA urges the government to reconsider this action and examine the advantages and disadvantages, as well as the direct and indirect impacts on stakeholders, more closely.

We have been involved in some discussions over recent weeks, and these concerns remain unallayed for us. The Greens still have concerns that this bill might have a disproportionate impact on low-carbon and renewable energy projects. Senator Christine Milne, who is responsible for speaking on behalf of the Greens on Treasury matters, is taking carriage of this matter will not stand in the way of the bill passing through the House, but we are not yet in a position to give support for the passage of this bill in the Senate. Our concerns remain very real and have not yet been resolved. We understand that the government has set a self-imposed time line for getting this legislation through. On behalf of the Greens I can say that that may be the government's view but our concerns are yet to be resolved. On that basis, we will not stand in the way of its passage through the House, but that is without prejudice to the position we might take in the Senate. We feel that we have very clearly put on notice the concerns we want to see addressed.