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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Page: 9512


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (13:10): The opposition is concerned that this government, based on its track record, has been very bad for Australia's productivity growth—though it is keen to maximise my productivity today. The coalition does not oppose the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 5) Bill 2012. Labor has, sensibly, taken our very constructive suggestions on board and amended this bill in the House of Representatives to remove the original schedules 3 and 4. The original schedule 3 introduced a new compliance regime for gaseous fuels, with yet again more red tape. The schedule regarding gaseous fuels was strongly opposed by us because it was more onerous and stricter than the current Excise Act's obligations on conventional fuel sellers and others obliged to collect excise. Consistent with Labor's approach to government administration, there was yet again a significant increase in the red tape burden, especially for small businesses handling LPG.

This government is in love with red tape, to the point where it has given us more than 21,000 new regulations over the last four or five years. I have to reflect on a commitment that the then Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, made in the lead-up to the 2007 election, which was that in government he would have a one-in, one-out red tape policy—for every new bit of red tape that came in, one bit of red tape would be taken out. We have had from this government more than 21,000 new pieces of red tape, and guess how many pieces of red tape have been removed from the statute books in that same period? Given that Mr Kevin Rudd said that the policy was that for every new piece of red tape in one would be taken out, you would assume that for the more than 21,000 new pieces of red tape that have come in we would have had about 21,000 pieces of red tape being removed. Not so—in fact, the number of regulations that have been removed from our books in that same period is fewer than 100. The government has a bit of catching up to do, and we are very pleased that on this occasion it has taken our very strong suggestion on board, which was not to proceed with schedule 3 because, quite frankly, it introduced yet again some completely unnecessary additional red tape which was going to be costly to administer for no obvious additional benefits.

Another commitment from this government was that every change to legislation would go through a proper and robust cost-benefit analysis, through a best practice regulation process, through a regulatory impact assessment, through the Office of Best Practice Regulation. Every time there is a contentious change that is likely to breach the requirement of the Office of Best Practice Regulation that there be a proper assessment of the costs and benefits, what happens? The relevant minister, like Minister Shorten, is very good at this: writing to the Prime Minister and getting himself a note that he does not have to comply. He gets himself an exemption whenever there is the risk that a particular change is obviously so burdensome that it would not pass a proper cost-benefit analysis. Of course, what this government have been doing is exempting themselves from the process that they themselves have instituted in order to ensure that this sort of stuff does not happen.

But I am getting distracted, so let us just go back to the bill at hand. The original schedule 4 clarified the rules about blending of fuels. This schedule has also been withdrawn after a discussion with the government about the increasing compliance costs involved in schedule 3.

As stated, the government has seen sense and so the coalition will not oppose the bill. The bill, as it stands, includes schedule 1, which changes the tax offset for expenditure on conservation tillage. This amendment will facilitate access to the offset. The current tax legislation requires the eligible seeder equipment to comprise a cart and tool. The definition of 'eligible no-till seeder' will be amended to ensure that an eligible no-till seeder can comprise either the tool alone or the tool and cart in combination.

Schedule 2 closes a mature-age worker tax offset. The offset is closed off for taxpayers born after 30 June 1957. This is a tax increase for this group of Australians and is a budget measure from the most recent budget. The new schedule 3 introduces a new deductible gift recipient entity. The Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia has been established to raise funds for the commemoration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. The new schedule 4 tightens the wine equalisation tax producer rebate. It closes a loophole that allows for double dipping of the rebate by some producers, and this change is actually supported—and I have to put this on the record—by the Winemakers' Federation of Australia.

So schedules 1, 3 and 4 as they currently appear in the bill are supported. Whilst we would not have undertaken the changes in schedule 2, it is a budget measure that will not be opposed; and, as such, the coalition will not oppose the bill.