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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8754


Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff) (16:47): by leave—Coalition members on the committee made supplementary comments on the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 4) Bill. In broad terms, we were supportive of the recommendations of the committee. However, there were aspects of the government's changes to the living-away-from-home allowance that raised concerns with the coalition members on the committee.

Although we are not opposing the recommendations and are not opposing schedule 1 in the bill in particular, there can be no doubt based upon the clear testimony of a number of witnesses before the committee that the ramifications in particular for 457 visa holders are significant. 457 visa holders, of which there are approximately 90,000, make a very substantial contribution to the skilled labour force that Australia enjoys. 457 visa holders make a very significant contribution to ensuring that the skilled worker gap that exists within this country both currently and previously has been met by the ability to attract foreign workers to Australia on a competitive remuneration basis.

The changes that Labor is proposing to the living-away-from-home allowance have a very profound impact upon the ability of Australian employers and more broadly the research and education sectors as well as the more traditional 457 industry—that is, the mining and resources industry—to create an attractive compensation package to attract those skilled workers that Australia vitally needs. In the absence of the government having any clear program to ensure that skilled labour will be available in plentiful supply in the future, the simple and inescapable fact of the changes to the living-away-from-home allowance is that this government, without having transitional arrangements, has immediately made 457 visa workers disadvantaged, made Australia less competitive when it comes to attracting skilled workers and fundamentally made a profound change to the landscape when it comes to our national ability to attract the best and the brightest to a number of jobs where there is a skilled labour shortage.

In addition, I would also highlight, though, that we strongly endorse the committee's position with respect to recommendation 5—that it be handled under one tax regime specifically. I would simply bring those two matters to prominence.

I also seek indulgence to make some comments about the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission report which was tabled by this committee earlier in the day to which the Deputy Speaker indicated I would be able to make some comments, and I will do so very briefly. Coalition members lodged a dissenting report with respect to that inquiry because we did not agree with the recommendations of the committee. In fact, coalition members had the view that the bill ought not to be passed. The objectives through the establishment of the ACNC are certainly objectives that we would support. However, the reality is that the not-for-profit sector is likely to be faced—the evidence was very clear on this—with a significant increase in the amount of red tape and compliance regulations as a consequence of the creation of Labor's bill and its passage, as expected, through the parliament. The reality is that, although it is designed to maintain and protect public trust and confidence, there has been no clear example provided by the government of the way in which these matters have already been diminished or eroded. There continues to be in the not-for-profit sector strong public trust and confidence. Most importantly, there was no compelling argument put forward about the way in which this will overcome the red tape and compliance aspects that were raised by so many witnesses before the inquiry. For that reason, we lodged a dissenting report.