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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12509

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:11): The Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 5) Bill 2012 is the fifth tranche of legislation introduced in 2012 for the amendment of our tax laws. It shows that the government is committed to continually adjusting our taxation arrangements to ensure they are appropriate for meeting our revenue targets, to remove loopholes and unintended consequences as they are thrown up, to ensure that they continually operate efficiently and as intended, and to ensure that we meet our commitments to ensure that the tax take, as a proportion of GDP, is no greater than it was when we took office. The opposition spokesperson has recently made some comments about the size of the tax take under this government, but what he will not have told the House is that the highest taxing government in the history of this nation was the Howard government. The only way to measure this is to measure the ratio of tax to GDP. It is at record lows under our government. It was at record highs when we came to office. If you want to look at handing out gold medals for the highest taxing government in the history of Federation, you need look no further than the Howard government. You would not mind so much if they were not spending like drunken sailors at the same time, but that is indeed what they were doing, in stark contrast to those on this side of the House, who have done the hard yards in ensuring that we can find the savings in this year's budget, in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement and throughout the course of this year to ensure that we meet our commitments. You hear those on the other side of the House continually claiming that there are savings there to be found, but every time we put a saving up they are the first to be screaming, 'We can't support this.'

So I am very pleased to be speaking today on this bill, which contains a number of measures which deal with various taxation issues. Schedule 1 of the bill makes a minor technical change to the conservation tillage refundable tax offset, amending the definition of 'eligible no-till seeder' to ensure that the offset applies to the purchase of just the tool as well as the combination of the cart and the tool. This amendment will assist the government's objective of encouraging the uptake of conservation tillage practices by removing the existing requirement that a new cart also be purchased at the time a new no-till seeding tool is purchased. It follows industry feedback on the current eligibility requirements. It is a measure which should, and I hope will, enjoy the support of all members in this place.

Schedule 2 contains measures to phase out the mature-age worker tax offset, otherwise known as MAWTO, from 1 July 2012 for taxpayers who were not already 55 or older on or before 30 June 2012—that is, those born on or after 1 July 1957.

Those currently eligible because they were aged 55 years or older on 30 June 2012 are unaffected by the change and remain age eligible for the mature-age worker tax offset—that is, the provisions are not retrospective. By closing off the offset to new recipients and investing in better-targeted participation programs, the government will improve the value for money while protecting those who have built the offset into their household budgets.

The offset is a cost to revenue in the order of $450 million per year. It is not an efficient way to promote participation amongst those aged 55 and above. We remain committed to encouraging the retention and the re-entry into the workforce of those mature-age workers. It is estimated that under the existing arrangements, however, only 5,000 full-time-equivalent workers are encouraged into the workforce through the offset. This equates to a cost of about $90,000 per encouraged worker, hardly an efficient tax expenditure. We on this side of the House—and I hope that this is a measure which enjoys the support of all sides of the House—believe that there are more effective and efficient ways of pursuing this worthy aim.

It is important that the government channels its efforts to encouraging workforce participation among older Australians through more cost-effective programs. The government is introducing a new $26 million Mature Age Participation—Job Seeker Assistance Program, for example, from 1 July 2013 to provide eligible mature-age job seekers aged 55 and over with a peer based environment in which to develop their information technology skills, undertake job-specific training and prepare for work.

The government's $41 million response to the final report of the Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians includes a $10 million initiative for new jobs bonuses, which will encourage businesses to employ older Australians who want to stay in the workforce—another example of a better-targeted program for assisting the retention and employment of older Australians.

And then there are the $1,000 bonuses which will be paid to employers who recruit and retain a mature-age job seeker for three months or more. I see the Minister for Employment Participation at the table. It is an excellent initiative, and I congratulate her on the great work that she has done in not only proposing this measure but ensuring that it has survived the rigours of the Expenditure Review Committee.

I also point to the $15.6 million extension of the successful Corporate Champions program to provide support to employers who wish to promote mature-age employment at their workplace. This is a scheme that I know through my work in my electorate has enjoyed a lot of support from the many retired professionals and executives who live in a few parts within my electorate, who have decided that they do not want to continue to participate in a full-time role in the work that they do but would be willing to provide voluntary or more part-time work through a program such as this.

All of these are excellent examples of how we can better target the assistance from government to employ and retain mature-age Australians.

There are several other schedules within the bill, most of which have been ventilated in the debate before the House. There is one provision that I will draw your attention to, and that is schedule 5, which amends the list of deductible gift recipients in the Income Tax Assessment Act to add the Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia. The Diamond Jubilee Trust has been established to raise funds in Australia for the commemoration of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee. I am a well-known republican myself, but that does not stop me wanting to support an important initiative such as this, because the purpose of this trust is to provide charitable and aid works in developing countries. It would be churlish of me indeed not to support such a worthwhile initiative.

These are all important amendments which should enjoy the support of all members in this place. I commend the bill in its entirety to the House.