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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 47

Senator McLUCAS (12:34 PM) —The Tax Laws Amendment (Retirement Villages) Bill 2004 is an important piece of legislation, as was discussed yesterday. It is the result of four years of urging by the retirement village sector and the Labor Party for the government to deal with the question of the application of the GST to services provided in retirement villages. The Labor Party were concerned about some elements of this legislation and therefore yesterday moved—successfully—a series of amendments. As we have just heard, they were not agreed to by the House of Representatives. That is unfortunate for people who live in retirement villages and it is unfortunate for people who operate retirement villages. However, the substance of the bill does deliver what the industry has been calling for for a very long period of time—that is, clarification and simplification of the application of the GST. The bill ensures that operators can be clear on whether or not services are GST applicable. It is a victory for the sector and a victory for the Labor Party that finally the government has clarified the application of GST to services provided by retirement villages.

We cannot forget that when the government brought in the GST it was going to be simple. Four years later we are still tidying it up. Four years later we have just finalised the application of the GST to this area, and I am sure there are plenty more areas to cover. We will be watching the application of this legislation in the sector. We will be seeking to make sure that it provides clarity and surety to the people providing services in retirement villages. But, because of the need for this legislation, Labor will not be insisting on the amendments we made yesterday.

During the debate yesterday and during discussions with the government, there was a view put that if we did move amendments yesterday it would delay this bill to the point where we would not be able to deal with it in this sitting. The fact that we are dealing with this bill now, with plenty of time between now and close, puts a lie to that allegation. The government was in fact almost suggesting to the sector that if the amendments were moved, the opportunity to have the matter dealt with would be delayed until next year. The sector can make up their own mind about whether or not that was good advice but the simple fact that we have dealt with this bill today says very clearly that that was very false advice.

So we were not delaying the legislation. We were trying in good faith to tidy it up to make it very clear how it will be applied. That has not delayed the passage of this bill at all. I urge lobbyists and people working on behalf of various sectors to take advice on procedural matters from this government with a grain of salt and to not be bullied into making decisions based on that. The Labor Party will be supporting the motion moved by the minister. I thank the sector for their hard work over the last four years.