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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4122

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (12:51): I rise to talk about tax reform, but before I do I also strongly support the comments of the member for Chifley about price discrimination. I would also add the issue of product differentiation and why the same product in one country cannot deliver at the same level in another country. I would hope both price and product are part of any further inquiries. A related issue, which is an absolute bugbear of mine, is that basic connections, such as batteries, are not internationally harmonised. If we are going into an era where things like e-waste matter—I know this is drifting a bit from where the member for Chifley was heading—and if we as a country are serious about dealing with harmonisation, I would hope that some of those broader considerations related to product as well as price are taken into consideration by the minister and the government.

I rise today to talk about tax reform. Last year a critical part of the supply and confidence agreement struck with government was to hold a tax forum at the end of last year. We are now getting to the crunch of some of the flow-on work that came from that tax forum. I understand that the Tax Institute is nearly up and running in dealing with some of the more difficult and long-term tax issues facing Australia in areas such as housing and superannuation. A lot of work has been done between the time that the tax forum held in October last year and now in engaging various universities in finalising that matter. I am also pleased that COSBOA and the small business community are now finding much more of a voice within Canberra. I am really pleased to see Peter Strong engaging directly with both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer on issues facing small business and the small business tax environment.

The issue that I rise to speak about today relates to some comments in the Australian Financial Review by the Institute of Chartered Accountants, who express some concerns about the speed of tax reform in Australia and almost encourage government to slow down. I take a completely opposite view and would urge government to continue with the program of comprehensive tax reform, particularly for business. The Business Tax Working Group came off the back of the program of tax reform. The particular issue of considerations around loss carry-back and the place of equity financing in the future of Australia is a really important policy issue of the moment and must be delivered as per the very positive sounds that came out of the tax forum and that are coming out of Treasury and the Business Tax Working Group. I strongly disagree in this instance with the Institute of Chartered Accountants saying, 'Slow down.' I hope government continues to look to implement that loss carry-back business opportunity.

I also encourage, on the back of the tax forum, the work that is being done by the superannuation roundtable. One of the good things that came from the tax forum was that archenemy groups such as the Business Council of Australia and the ACTU actually sat down and started to talk. Those talks have continued. I understand there is now constructive work in partnership going on with the superannuation roundtable on some of the more difficult longer term issues in areas such as housing and how we better achieve outcomes in the national interest in that regard. That is a good outcome in itself—if relationships are stronger and partnerships can be built by natural foes.

As well, the GST review is coming shortly, and I hope that considerations around mining royalties are an important part of that GST review. The state tax working group will be reporting at the end of this year. Harmonisation of Commonwealth and state taxation is critical to the success of any tax reform. I hope the government keeps the pressure on the two state Treasurers, of two different political persuasions, who are chairing that process.

Finally, the place of education, innovation and natural resource management in tax reform is important. I just highlight that, if we are serious about tax reform, it has got to talk to the broader social and economic outcomes for Australia.