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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14496


Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Treasurer) (17:27): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The government stands by those in Queensland as they work to rebuild their properties and communities following the devastating effects of the monsoonal trough earlier this year.

The speed at which the floods hit and spread through north and western parts of Queensland was terrifying, coupled with low temperatures, high winds and extended periods of rainfall. The scale of the damage is immense. We know the number of livestock lost in the floods or through illness is in the hundreds of thousands, with some properties reportedly losing their entire herd. At the same time, crucial and costly farm and business infrastructure has simply been washed away.

The impact socially, economically and otherwise on these communities is devastating. While the government cannot undo the damage that has been done, we can ensure that farming families and affected communities are well supported as they rebuild.

To this end, the government has set up the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency, headed by the Hon. Shane Stone AC QC. The agency will not only assist with the delivery of the immediate response, it will work with flood-affected farmers and communities to develop and coordinate a long-term plan for recovery and reconstruction.

We also recognise it's important to make sure that these communities have access to support immediately so they can get back on their feet as soon as possible.

In addition, we have seen severe storms inflict significant damage on primary producers in the Fassifern Valley, Queensland.

This bill includes three measures all aimed at providing support to those affected by these events.

Schedule 1 to the bill will make flood recovery grants exempt from income tax.

We have worked closely with the Queensland government to provide more than $500 million to support flood-affected communities with the cost of recovery, such as clean-up, restocking and replanting and replacing on-farm infrastructure. This support includes:

grants of up to $50,000 for eligible small businesses and non-profit organisations under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements;

grants of up to $75,000 for eligible primary producers under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements; and

additional grants of up to $400,000 to assist eligible primary producers with half of the cost of restocking, replanting and replacing on-farm infrastructure.

Government grants are typically counted as assessable income for the recipient, meaning that taxpayers must pay income tax on the grant amount. However, given the exceptional circumstances, these grants are being made non-assessable, non-exempt income which means that:

the grants will not be counted as assessable income; and

the grants will not reduce any tax losses that can be carried forward to future years by the taxpayer.

No taxpayer will be left with an income tax bill as a result of receiving a qualifying disaster recovery grant. Every dollar received will go towards rebuilding and re-establishing operations following the floods.

Schedule 2 to the bill will make storm assistance grants to eligible primary producers in the Fassifern Valley, Queensland, exempt income for tax purposes.

The government is providing $1 million to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, which will work with the Salvation Army and a local community panel to give grants to primary producers that sustained damage as a result of the severe storms of October 2018.

The bill will make these grants exempt income for tax purposes, meaning that the grants are not counted as assessable income, but will reduce any tax losses that can be carried forward to future years.

This will ensure that no primary producer is left with an up-front income tax bill as a result of receiving these grants, supporting them in their recovery from the storms.

Schedule 3 to the bill provides a special appropriation of $1.75 billion so that the government is able to establish and administer a loan scheme that will enable banks to offer reduced interest rate loans to eligible flood-affected primary producers.

The loan scheme, to be administered by the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency, will provide participating banks with a reduced cost of funding to be passed through to eligible primary producers in the form of reduced interest loans to help stabilise their financial position.

Together, these measures will provide further support to those affected by the Queensland floods and storms, helping them to recover and rebuild.

Further details of the measure are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

I commend the bill to the House.

Leave granted for second reading debate to continue immediately.