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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10403

Mr LAWLER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests. Minister, would you inform the House of the reaction of primary producers to the new business tax system announced early this week by the government?

Mr TRUSS (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the member for Parkes for his representations on behalf of the primary producers in his own electorate. I am sure that they have given him the same enthusiastic response to this new tax package as other government members have noted in their own electorates. Yesterday the House heard how the National Farmers Federation have warmly endorsed this proposal. One of the major rural weeklies had as its headline today `Tax reforms to benefit farmers'. There has indeed been a very generous and warm response to the government's new tax arrangements, particularly with regard to the way in which this new package will reduce the compliance burden that faces farmers. There is nothing farmers hate more than paperwork. This new tax system will provide real benefits from 1 July 2001. Most will have access to cash accounting and the simpler arrangements for depreciation.

Amongst the many media releases that have welcomed this proposal is one that particularly attracted my attention. This media release said that it supported the simplification of taxation arrangements for small farm business. It supported the objective of lowering the company tax rate for incorporated farm businesses. It was pleased that the government had decided to retain tax concessions for Landcare. It said that removing capital gains liability for farm assets held for more than 15 years will benefit a number of farmers planning to retire. It welcomed the decision to introduce new measures for venture capital—an outstanding endorsement. It may surprise you to know that that endorsement came from none other than the member for Corio, the shadow minister for agriculture. There is quite a deal of confusion on the opposition benches, but at least the shadow minister for agriculture wanted to play himself into the field and to make it clear that there were many good measures in this proposal.

Of course, he did like to have two bob each way; I will be fair to him. There is one group of people he is concerned about, and that is the small group of farmers who have a turnover of more than $1 million a year. The Labor Party well and truly lost its touch with the battlers in the bush. Their concerns are about the agribusinesses with turnovers of more than $1 million. The shadow minister is upset that they may not have access to some of these benefits. What he forgets is that these are the sorts of people who will benefit from a tax cut from 36 per cent to 30 per cent. That is a pretty worthwhile business benefit for anybody in agriculture, no matter how big their operation is. He complains that the government has not done enough, but I am sure all the farmers of Australia know full well that in 13 years Labor did nothing like this. All they did was put up taxes. Farmers well and truly know that under Labor they will get higher taxes; that it is only the coalition that delivers tax reform and real benefits to the rural sector.