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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12127


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (21:12): Before I begin, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, I wish to acknowledge your former staff member who has faced some tragic events over the weekend. The thoughts of many people are with her and her family.

By leave—I move notice No. 4, as amended, relating to taxation reform, in the terms circulated to honourable members:

That this House:

(1) recognises the need for comprehensive tax reform to maximise the standard of living for Australians for the next 50 years; and

(2) instructs the Treasurer to release a 10 year road-map for comprehensive tax reform as a standalone budget paper as part of the 2012-13 Federal Budget.

There has been considerable movement since the Tax Forum of 4 and 5 October in a number of different areas of tax reform. There is now a working group of the Council of Small Business of Australia and the Australian Taxation Office looking at opportunities to improve administration in taxation. There is also the Business Tax Working Group. It has already met to look at a number of different areas where business taxation can be improved in the current fiscal environment, particularly the areas of loss carryback and of equity versus debt. There is also the state tax reform planning work going on, led by the Liberal state treasurer of New South Wales, Mike Baird, and the Labor state treasurer of Queensland, Andrew Fraser. There is also work on the progress in ATO governance and some recommendations made by the Inspector-General of Taxation. All of that is good and welcome work, along with the announcements of $1 million a year going into further tax research and also, at some point in the future, a further lifting of the tax-free threshold up to $21,000. But what is desperately needed and called for by many groups, including small business communities and the representative body for the top 100 companies in Australia—the Business Council of Australia—is a 10-year reform agenda, and that is very much what this motion is about. It seeks a direction from the parliament and instructs the Treasurer to bring forward that 10-year road map for comprehensive tax reform.

Some very good work was done by Ken Henry and others in 2009 in this area of comprehensive tax and transfer reform, and many of us who were in the previous parliament were somewhat frustrated that more of those recommendations were not at least publicly debated if not taken up by government. We have seen progress in many areas. Government is responding by saying that it has picked up about 30 of the 130-odd recommendations, but that still leaves a lot of work. Australia does face an unfolding fiscal challenge which, if not addressed, has the potential to bring on fiscal problems within the next 40 years. If all of us want to have, as part of our job description and our brief, the best possible standard of living for our children and grandchildren over the next 40 to 50 years, this is an area where we need to do a lot of work. We currently have an unsustainable tax system, based on issues internationally, relationships between the Commonwealth and state governments, and the demographic profile of Australia with the ageing bubble coming through.

We do need to have a substantial discussion on the back of the Ken Henry reform papers and the tax forum that has taken place. I strongly urge the Treasurer, the executive and the government generally to take up the opportunity to put in place the road map for the next 10 years so that we can have certainty in the marketplace, certainty in policy direction and a sustainable tax system for the future of this country so that business can do what it does best—and that is to do good business—and, more importantly, so that the community has the best possible standard of living, even if at times that involves the unpopular decisions of today.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Owens: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.