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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 3958

Senator BOYCE (Queensland) (18:15): I would like to thank my colleague Senator Cormann for speed in speaking his way through the eight schedules that we are supposed to be debating in the very, very brief time that we have been given for yet another bill to fix a bill. I noted, whilst preparing to speak on the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 6) Bill 2012, that in the House of Representatives the shadow Treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey, said:

Noting that we were given two minutes notice that this bill was being brought on for debate, I rise to speak on the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 6) Bill 2012, which deals with a range of changes to the taxation system …

Whilst we were given two minutes notice for the debate in the House of Representatives, we have been given not much more, 45 minutes, for the debate of the entire bill in the Senate under the gag situation that the Gillard government and the Greens have forced through.

I note also that the government would want to describe this bill as an omnibus bill, with eight schedules dealing with eight different aspects of tax. I would suggest that what we are, in fact, looking at is probably more like a dog's breakfast than an omnibus bill. We have schedules where the introduction of the provisions is being delayed. We have others where we are going back nearly 12 months in claiming moneys from the poor, ever-suffering Australian taxpayers, who are trying to prop up, firstly, the mirage of a deficit that this government has developed and who are now stuck in trying to pay off the debts of this government.

We have schedule 4 of the bill, which seeks to extend the interim streaming rules for managed investment trusts until the commencement of the new tax system for the managed investment trusts. The interim rules enable the streaming of capital gains and franked dividends to beneficiaries subject to relevant integrity provisions until the new MIT regime commences. The commencement of the new MIT regime has been deferred by two years to 1 July 2014 to coincide with the intended commencement of the rewritten MIT and other trust provisions in the income tax laws. Originally these interim streaming rules were supposed to apply from 1 July 2012, but now they have been extended by two years to July 2014 simply because the provisions for the new regime for managed investment trusts and the rewrite of other trust provisions in the income tax laws were not ready in time. We have an extension, a pushing out, of two years from July 2012 to 2014 because the government could not get its act together in time to proceed.

It is a direct consequence of delays in progressing other announced and anticipated changes in the tax law. It reflects that there is a growing backlog of changes to tax law which have been announced but not enacted. Every time the Treasurer is looking for a new way to save money—which really is a code for new taxes, new tax hikes, and new income and assets tests—it is a vain attempt to pay off the debts through more and more legislation. The legislation that may have been thought about and may have been considered is the legislation that got bumped, so that all goes to the back of the queue. As a result we have tax reform measures that provide no budget boost or, worse, come with a cost and are relegated to second-class status and do not come in. This is exactly what has happened with the managed investment trust regime. It got bumped and bumped, so we have the situation where we have a two-year delay in developing this regime. Goodness knows when it will get caught up.

This process has not been helped by the fact that the Assistant Treasurer's portfolio has been held by five different people. Five different people have attempted to be Assistant Treasurer to Mr Swan in just over five years since this government came into office. Of course, we have a similar problem in the small business portfolio. I cannot remember quite how many, but it is certainly at least five. With this swinging door of people, by the time someone gets around to getting their head around the legislation, it is time for them to get moved out and for someone else to get moved in.

We have schedule 4, around the managed investment trusts, which is delayed for two years. The next schedule, schedule 5, applies an income test to the rebate for medical expenses from 1 July 2012. Here we are in June 2013 debating a piece of legislation that came into force, allegedly—or would have if they had gotten it up in time—to apply from 1 July 2012. I guess the government will manage to get this through before the end of the financial year, so that will be all right, won't it? How incredibly bizarre! This is a budget move that was announced in May 2012 and yet, only now, we have the legislation in this parliament. This is yet another of the government's efforts to scrabble around looking for money, shouting their 'class warfare, class warfare' mantra to tackle families and others who quite recently expected out-of-pocket medical expenses to be reimbursed past a certain level, as they have been under an excellent policy developed by the former Howard-Costello government.

The current claim threshold is $2,120 per year for all taxpayers and it is indexed by CPI, with net expenses exceeding the threshold giving rise to a tax offset or rebate worth 20 per cent of the excess above the claim threshold. Of course, the government thought: 'This is a bit too good. We'll have to get into this. We don't want those rich people having any assistance with their health benefit.' So for singles they brought in an adjusted taxable income of $84,000. I guess a single who earns $85,000 is one of Mr Swan's richies who is out to rort the system and destroy the working class. If a single person earns more than $85,000, their claim threshold is $5,000 and they only get 10 per cent back. For married couples, it is $168,000 and, again, the claim threshold is $5,000 and they only get 10 per cent back. Because this government does not understand families and how to run them or how to budget, the income threshold increases only by $1,500 for each dependent child. This is yet another tax grab from an imprudent government that cannot control its spending addiction.

My colleague Senator Cormann earlier outlined that we will be seeking to amend schedules 1 and 3 of this bill because of their offensive nature. It continues to beggar belief that this government wants to ram legislation like this through when we have unintended consequences in the native title area and many other problems with this legislation.