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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2420

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (12:31): The Excise Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011 and the Customs Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011 establish a seven-day cycle for returns and the payment of customs duty. They allow for eligible small business entities to apply for permission to defer their customs duty settlement to a monthly reporting cycle from a weekly cycle. These bills also make changes which seek to reduce the excise compliance burden for eligible small businesses. The coalition supports these bills.

Excise is a tax on certain goods produced in Australia, including alcohol, other than wine; tobacco; fuel; crude oil; condensate; and lubricants. Where such goods are imported into Australia they are subject to excise equivalent customs duty. Under excise and customs law, taxpayers are required to lodge an entry and pay the applicable excise or excise-equivalent customs duty prior to the goods entering the domestic market. However, section 61C of the Excise Act and section 69 of the Customs Act establish a weekly accounting period, allowing the lodgement to occur after the good has entered the domestic market.

In practice, this has been on a weekly reporting cycle beginning Monday and ending Sunday. The amendments allow for the taxpayer to apply for a new weekly period to begin on their preferred day. The bills allow for a seven-day cycle that suits the business and should reduce administration costs of the duty. The amendments also allow for small businesses to apply for permission to defer their excise settlement to a monthly reporting cycle. The bills also give these small businesses a further 21 days from the end of the month to remit their tax liability. This will reduce lodgement paperwork from 52 to 12 returns per year, which is a good thing.

The amendments also allow businesses selling gaseous fuel on a seven-day reporting cycle to give the commissioner a return on or before the sixth business day following the end of each seven-day period. This legislation confirms the existing monthly settlement arrangement for stabilised crude oil and condensate. These changes represent a sensible, if minor, reform to excise and customs duty and are supported by the coalition.

While the coalition supports these particular bills, I take the opportunity to note that this government has been an absolute failure when it comes to reducing the burden from overregulation. You might remember, Mr Deputy President, that both the then Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, and one of the then senior shadow ministers, Dr Emerson, in the lead-up to the 2007 election made much of the promise of 'one in for one out'. They made this promise that somehow for every new regulation there had to be one regulation taken off the books. Of course, when it comes to lowering the burden of regulation, as the government says it tries to do in these bills—which is a good thing—there is much, much more to do.

This government has introduced more than 12,500 new regulations—and how many of them have gone? Fewer than 60. So much for the promise before the 2007 election that the government would get rid of one regulation in exchange for every new regulation it puts on the books. This government has put more than 12,500 new regulations on the books. Just imagine the amount of additional red tape faced by business as a result of the actions of this government. Just imagine the impact on productivity. Just imagine the impact on the competitiveness of business in Australia compared to the competitiveness of business in other parts of the world. This is a government that, across the board, is choking business in red tape.

There needs to be way more action to do the sorts of things that the government is trying to do in a minor way in the bills that the Senate is debating at the moment—to ensure that we increase productivity more rapidly; that we become the most competitive internationally that we can be; that we can maximise our trade; that we can grow our economy. If we do all of that—if we grow our economy based on increased productivity and being as competitive internationally as we possibly can be—we can not only spread more economic wealth and prosperity across the nation but also increase revenue for the government. And we would increase revenue for the government without the need to impose all these new taxes that this government has been imposing on the Australian people.

This is a government that comes in with 20 new or increased taxes. This is a government that comes in with 12,500-plus new regulations. This is a government that chokes businesses in red tape, that chokes them in more tax. What we need is a government that is focused on taking Australia forward, on making sure that we are the most competitive and the most productive that we can be. Obviously this is a very competitive world, and a lot of the changes that this government has been pursuing seriously undermine the international competitiveness of Australian business—whether it is the tax and regulatory burden that comes from the carbon tax; whether it is the tax burden that comes from the 20 new or increased taxes the government has put forward, or whether it is the 12,500-plus new regulations that this government has imposed on Australian business. The focus in the past and in the future under a coalition government has always been and will be on economic reform that increases the international competitiveness of the Australian economy. This government has been a very bad government in the sense that it has actually pursued changes that reduce our international competitiveness and make Australia less productive than we could be. This is a government with a combination of new or increased taxes and massive increases in regulatory burdens that have actually undermined our efforts to make us more productive, to make us more competitive and to grow our economy more strongly.

While we support the small effort that the government is making through these two bills that the Senate is currently debating, we think that there is much, much more that the government needs to do. Of course, on the coalition side we have a deregulation task force which is chaired by Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who is doing a fine job in that role and in many other roles he has taken on on behalf of the coalition, injecting his undoubted and very significant talent and experience across senior levels of government and across economic and financial affairs. He will be ably assisted in the task of trying to cut red tape and providing $1 billion worth of savings for business across Australia by Senator David Bushby and by Kelly O'Dwyer, the member for Higgins. That committee is consulting with business across Australia right now on how we can cut red tape, how we can make sure that we increase productivity, and how we can make sure that we make our economy more competitive internationally, because that is the way we grow the economy and ultimately grow government revenue without the need for all of these new ad hoc Labor Party taxes—like the mining tax, the carbon tax, the flood tax, the alcopops tax, the increase in luxury car tax and the new condensate tax. If I had to go through a list of 12,538 new regulations the government had introduced, we would be here for a couple of weeks. But the government's guillotine in terms of this legislation does not allow me to get anywhere near the increased number of regulations this government has imposed on the Australian people. That will have to be a debate for another day. But I am sure that people across Australia share the coalition's view that we need to seriously cut red tape and make our economy more competitive.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time allocated for consideration of these bills has expired.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.