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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4371

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (18:31): I rise to speak, very quickly, in support of the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 1) Bill 2012. This bill is another step forward in the Gillard government's mission to reform the tax system and make it fairer for all Australians. It brings in 2011-12 budget measures aimed at fostering a prosperous and even-handed taxation system—an improved system that supports all Australians.

Australian Labor governments continue to lead the way. We have led our country through global economic uncertainty to today, where it stands as a powerhouse economy on the world stage, the envy of Europe and the OECD, as acknowledged by the leader opposite—when he is in Europe.

We have ensured our fiscal position remains strong despite the global financial crisis. Unlike many other nations, we have successfully avoided recession and prevented serious job losses. This alone is a record of which to be proud. But not only did we safeguard our budget position and Australian jobs; we oversaw outstanding employment growth and a record investment pipeline of $456 billion, as I heard from the Treasurer today, despite the gloom and doom predictions of those opposite of what would be happening in the minerals sector when we brought in the MRRT.

More than 750,000 jobs have been created since the Labor government was first elected. Obviously there is more to be done. It is a patchy economy; we know that. While others pause we push ahead in the interests of the Australian people, and that is what this legislation is all about.

A key Australian value is the concept of a fair go. This bill moves to correct inequity in the tax system created by the High Court decision in the Commissioner of Taxation v Anstis case. It simply is not fair that taxpayers with the same level of income will have different deduction entitlements depending on whether they receive a taxable government assistance payment. The Anstis decision violates the basic principle that expenses incurred in generating income that is effectively tax-free should not then be deductible—that is, no money into the public purse should prohibit you from taking money out of the public purse. Overturning the High Court decision is the right thing to do in order to make the system fairer for everybody.

The Gillard government is committed to helping Australian students on income support, but this must be done efficiently and effectively. Providing assistance via the transfer system is more targeted and timely. The university students of Australia have not been forgotten by Labor governments. I stress that. After a decade of underinvestment by the Howard government, Australian universities were in a dire state when Labor came to power in 2007. That is why we increased funding to universities by more than 50 per cent.

Griffith University is one of Australia's most innovative tertiary institutions and its Nathan campus is located right in my electorate; I drive past it every day when I go to work. I have spoken of Griffith University many times in this chamber, and I am very proud of its numerous achievements. Many students at Griffith are already well supported by the Gillard government's measures. For example, we provide start-up scholarships worth $2,100 to students receiving youth allowance, Austudy and Abstudy living allowance. We have lowered the youth allowance age of independence and we are helping many first-year students who must live away from home to study with relocation scholarships worth up to $4,000. This assistance, plus $1,000 in subsequent years, will go a long way to making sure that Moreton students who can no longer live at home get the best start to their tertiary education. I thank the Gillard government for its focus on nurturing tomorrow's leaders.

Another function of this bill is to remove the ability of complying superannuation entities to treat certain assets—primarily shares, units in a trust and land—as trading stock. This measure will reduce present ambiguity around the application of the trading stock provisions.

Another aspect of this bill which speaks to the fundamental principle of fairness in Australia is tax exemptions for payments to individuals impacted in recent flooding in New South Wales and also in my home state of Queensland. The Gillard government is making ex gratia payments to New Zealand special category visa holders who have been impacted by the 2012 floods exempt from income tax. This is in line with the payments' counterparts, the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments, which are also exempt. We made these payments exempt for eligible New Zealand residents during the summer of sorrow in 2010-11, and again for those struck by Cyclone Yasi in February last year. New Zealanders living in western Queensland need our help to cope with the financial hardship wrought by the 2012 floodwaters just like their Australian neighbours.

Natural disasters have rocked Queensland in recent times but have served to show the world the compassion and resilience that exists in Australian communities. This spirit was evident in the faces of many people in my own electorate who were hit hard by the 2011 floods. I welcome all measures to help everyone affected by this most recent natural disaster, as my community is only just starting to get back on its feet.

On a different note, but still on the theme of doing the right thing, this bill extends the phasing out of a truly outdated tax offset, the dependent spouse tax offset. This relic of the tax system is better placed in a black-and-white television show than in modern-day Australia. The dependent spouse tax offset was introduced at a time when a husband was expected to maintain a spouse, even without children, and there were limited employment opportunities for women. Considering that the leader of our country and our head of state are women, this is definitely no longer the case in modern Australia. Our action to phase out this offset is based on a recommendation from the Australia's Future Tax System Review. Actions such as this are vital as we update the tax and transfer system to better align with community expectations. It is important that all Australians who can work do so. However, we know it can be unreasonable for a spouse who has been out of the workforce for a very long time to be expected to find work. That is why we are keeping the current system for spouses who were born before 1 July 1952. In the 2011-12 budget the Gillard government introduced the carer spouse and invalid spouse tax offset to ensure that taxpayers who maintain a spouse who is unable to work because of their invalidity or carer obligations are not affected by these long overdue changes. We have also taken the limited employment opportunities in regional areas into account, making sure that taxpayers eligible for the zone tax offset will not have their entitlement affected.

Finally, this bill makes miscellaneous amendments to the taxation laws. These changes are part of our commitment to look after the tax system. Such changes are made from time to time to correct technical or drafting issues, remove anomalies and correct unintended outcomes in the tax legislation; in this case the changes address minor technical issues which have been identified with the minerals resource rent tax legislation. Such bills have been aimed at delivering practical measures to support individuals, families and small businesses across Australia. We must continue to improve the quality of our systems, continually evaluating processes to ensure they suit the aims of modern Australia. This bill is a fine example of the Gillard government's commitment and I commend it to the House.