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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 81

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (19:13): It is my pleasure to speak on the Excise Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011 and the Customs Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011. The opposition will be supporting the passage of both of these bills. The Assistant Treasurer, now promoted to Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, introduced these bills on 23 November last year. In his introductory remarks he outlined briefly and concisely the purpose of these bills and I will recount it very briefly. Essentially, it is to make amendments so that taxpayers will be able to move to a weekly period with a preferred key day, which introduces some flexibility. In practice, the weekly reporting cycles have been beginning on Monday and ending on Sunday. The seven-day cycle will suit businesses and should reduce administration costs and allow them flexibility while still meeting the revenue needs of the Commonwealth. Critically, the amendments also allow for small business to apply for permission to defer their excise settlement to a monthly reporting cycle. Instead of reporting 52 times a year, they could, as the then Assistant Treasurer made clear, have the capacity to reduce lodgment paperwork from 52 to 12 returns a year. There are some other amendments, which I will not detain the House with, which relate to the seven-day reporting cycle as well, but they are in the same vein and reduce complexity.

We regard these as sensible reforms and I do not mind saying that in this House. It is the case that the former Assistant Treasurer has introduced some sensible reforms, and you might be surprised to hear me say that. The main reason I say that is that he inherited the guts of these reforms—the monthly proposal to reduce the 52 returns per year to 12—when he was Labor's first Assistant Treasurer. The now Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Bowen, inherited these reforms because they were a budget announcement made by the former Howard government in 2007. I suppose the only surprise is that here we are many years later at the beginning of 2012 legislating what was an announcement made in May 2007.

I go back three assistant treasurers—and I know my Assistant Treasurers—right back to the Hon. Peter Dutton, who announced on budget night 8 May 2007 a change where the government would allow small business with deferred settlement permissions to settle their excise and excise equivalent customs duties on a monthly cycle. If you go back to the budget papers of 2007—they were white back then and the main thing the current Treasurer did was change the colour to blue—the last white set, for those of us who keep budget papers, you see this announcement outlined in the measures document on page 12 in the revenue section.

After Labor had won government, at their first budget in 2008, all things being equal, you would have expected them to implement what we are now seeking to implement. There was a long joint press release from the current Treasurer and the then Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Mr Bowen, outlining the government's approach to a number of outstanding tax issues. It was affirmed in that press release in a very long schedule in item 32 that deferred settlement of excise and excise equivalent customs duties would be on a monthly cycle, rather than the existing weekly cycle. You can see the attachment for further details, for anyone who is interested. The pertinent point is that it was outlined in that press release that the legislation was not expected to be introduced before 2009.

So in May 2008 clearly the government's intention was to proceed with this through 2009. We are now here at the beginning of 2012. Whilst the former Assistant Treasurer's introductory speech back in November pointed out in appropriate detail how this legislation would operate, it did omit the history I have just given the House. I thought for the fullness of the debate I would point that out. The coalition well and truly welcome the measures in these two bills and we commend them to the House.