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Thursday, 18 June 2009
Page: 6505

Dr EMERSON (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) (9:49 AM) —This is the problem. The Senate amendments essentially were to give effect to individuals being able to retain the ability to claim a tax deduction of up to $1,500 for political donations but not businesses. In drafting the Senate amendments, an error was made which means that a very substantial number of businesses would, for these purposes, be treated as individuals, whereas the other businesses would not. The consequence would be that some businesses would be able to claim a tax deduction of up to $1,500, while other businesses would not. This would be arbitrary in its operation. I do not believe that it was the intent of the Greens to arbitrarily apply these tax deductibility provisions in relation to some businesses and not others. That is why we are saying that we agree with the intent of the Senate amendments that individuals be able to claim the tax deduction of up to $1,500 but that businesses not be. However, in the drafting of the Senate amendment an error was made that provides that some businesses be able to retain that tax deduction capacity while other businesses not be.

This was not the intent, as we understand it, of the Greens in moving these amendments. I see the shadow minister is here, in the advisers box, and I will appeal to him right across the dispatch box to say, ‘Let’s be reasonable about it.’ If, indeed, the view of the coalition is that individuals should be able to claim the deduction—and that is what the shadow minister said in his presentation, that they want to retain that—we agree. But if the view of the coalition is that businesses should not be able to claim the tax deduction then they should in fact support our changes, which negate the amendment agreed by the Senate but give effect to the intent of the amendment agreed by the Senate.

The purpose of this debate here and my contribution in particular is to clarify whether the coalition in fact are prepared to accommodate the intent of the Senate amendments, which we are prepared to accommodate, or whether this is just a ruse. We want to clarify whether this is just a ruse in order for them to try to knock over this legislation, to knock over a budget savings measure which would prevent the tax deductibility of political donations of up to $1,500 by businesses. The shadow minister who has just spoken, the member for Sturt, has said, ‘Why not wait until a particular inquiry considers its deliberations?’ The problem is that the coalition, on matters such as this—that is, the tax deductibility of political donations by businesses—would rather wait forever. They want something that they can pin their argument upon, so that they can say, ‘Let’s just wait.’ If that is their position they should come forward and say, ‘The truth is that we disagree with the government and the Greens in their intent to deny tax deductibility for all businesses.’ If that is their position, at least the Australian public will know that. But to use as a ruse—and I hope they are not doing that—the fact that there is another inquiry and that they do not accept that there is an error in the Senate amendment drafting process, just as a way of sustaining and maintaining the tax deductibility of political donations by businesses, would be disappointing.

They should at least have the courage of their convictions and say that that is their position. If it is their position, fine; we will all know that. If it is not their position, if they have now realised, as a result of consultations that have occurred, that the Senate amendments have not been accurately drafted, then they will join with the government here and now, when we put these amendments, and say, ‘We accept the amendments to the Senate amendments.’ Then we can all retire from this debate happy in the knowledge that we have made some real progress in this area. I formally present the supplementary explanatory memorandum.