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Thursday, 13 October 2011
Page: 11905


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:21): I would like to take up two points that the member for Throsby raised. Firstly, like him, I attended the national disability insurance breakfast this morning, where we heard a most gracious speech, I have to say, by the Prime Minister in relation to the Every Australian Counts campaign. This has bipartisan support and needs to be brought forward sooner than the seven years suggested. Like the member for Throsby, I am signed up to the cause, and I am proud to say that I was the first New South Wales parliamentarian in this place to put my name to the campaign.

The member for Throsby also said that Australia has too many taxes, and again I find myself in agreement with him. But on this point I do say that his Labor government—the federal Gillard, Greens, Independent, Labor government—has not yet seen a tax it does not like. It has not yet seen a tax it will not impose on the people. Yesterday we saw the carbon tax, the misnamed 'clean energy' bills, foisted on the Australian nation. In the electorate of Throsby I am sure that people are going to be very angry with the fact that these carbon tax bills have been put through the lower house and that they will possibly pass through the upper house, where I am sure that New South Wales Nationals Senators Fiona Nash and John Williams will be doing their utmost to prosecute the case against the carbon tax. I want the member for Throsby to know that people in his electorate will be angry. I want him to remember that word 'angry' because that is what people are certainly going to be in his electorate.

The coalition has no issues with some schedules of the Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 7) Bill 2011. Overall we agree with the amendment, but there are some aspects which are of some concern. Looking at the amendment in its entirety, it seeks to alter the tax treatment of special disability trusts, which, as we have heard, takes into account the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It reduces the lowest marginal tax rate for Pacific seasonal workers; makes changes to the taxation financial arrangements; seeks to give the Commissioner of Taxation limited discretion to extend time for notifying transitional elections in financial arrangements; alters farm management deposits to allow for withdrawal within 12 months when affected by natural disaster; extends temporary loss relief for merging superannuation funds by three months; validates directors' penalty notices invalidated by New South Wales Court of Appeals decisions; defines public ancillary funds and allows the Treasurer to make guidelines to their establishment; and makes various alterations to film tax offsets. All in all, these are some worthwhile amendments.

The coalition has no problems with schedule 1, tax changes for special disability trusts, nor with schedule 2, regarding Pacific seasonal workers. Seasonal workers such as fruit pickers, always difficult to find, will have their lowest marginal tax rate adjusted from the too high—we accept that—29 per cent to 15 per cent. We agree with schedule 3, which deals with the taxation of financial arrangements, as well as schedule 4 pertaining to the limited discretion to extend time for notifying transition elections in financial arrangements.,

Certainly the coalition is in support of schedule 5 relating to the farm management deposits. This schedule allows farmers with farm management deposits to withdraw deposits within a year when affected by natural disasters without incurring a tax penalty. The farm management deposits scheme allows individual farmers to set aside pre-tax income in good years for use in low-income years. This will greatly assist food and fibre producers in regional areas who are so prone to the vagaries of commodity prices, the weather and especially over the past four years, poor Labor government policy. Our farmers are a resilient lot. They can cope with drought, fire, flood, frost, plague locusts, mice and a whole host of other setbacks. But they find it difficult to cope with bad policy from this bad government, which has ignored agriculture and does so at its and the nation's peril. We are best placed to meet the future global food task, but Labor's policies do not, sadly, reflect this.

The government has not acted on the recommendations in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia inquiry into the impact of the Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. A year on and regional communities are still wondering if they will be able to use the water productively—if they have a future. I acknowledge today we have the Griffith mayor, Councillor Mike Neville, in this place to talk about what future his community and communities around him may well have with the water debate continuing to go on. This government has failed on the Asian bee incursion; the live cattle export trade issue; and the importation of New Zealand apples, thereby placing our sustainable industry at risk of fire blight. Yesterday they voted in the lower house, despite having no mandate to do so, a carbon tax which will hit rural and regional Australia the hardest. Then there is the scrapping of the wheat export marketing system; Labor's inability to deliver the AQIS inspection reform; the European house borer in Western Australia, myrtle rust; the exit grant fiasco; Labor's inability to manage the grasshopper and mouse plagues; its inability to deliver reforms on the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority; its slow reaction to floods, particularly in New South Wales; the scrapping of exceptional circumstances, leaving farmers in financial and emotional despair; its inability to deliver appropriate labelling for Australian produce; and the milk price debacle, turning its back on our wonderful dairy farmers. Put simply, the Gillard-Greens government, propped up by the three Independents, has failed the regions and the people who grow our food and the fibre to help clothe us.

As far as this amendment is concerned, farm management deposits provide tax benefits if retained for at least 12 months but if withdrawn before 12 months an amended tax return for the year of the deposit must be lodged. There is currently an exception to this 12-month rule for farmers in exceptional circumstances but this exception excludes those events covered by natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements. This measure extends this exemption to include those areas covered by an applicable natural disaster, that is where NDRRA are declared. These measures were announced in the 2012 budget.

Schedule 6, the extension of temporary loss relief for merging superannuation funds, requires this amendment to avoid capital gains tax being imposed on recent fund mergers. Industry would prefer this relief to be made permanent to remove the significant barrier to the merger of some smaller funds. But overall the coalition supports this amendment and does commend it to the House.