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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12515

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (12:35): I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Greens to support the Tax Laws Amendment (Clean Building Managed Investment Trust) Bill 2012. This bill is a win for the environment, it is a win for progressive business and it is an example of this parliament working properly. When the initial proposal from the government regarding withholding tax came before this parliament, the Greens had some concerns, as did a significant number of players in the business community and the progressive business community. They were concerned that the proposal might disproportionately impact on investment in clean buildings, in green buildings, in sustainable buildings. In particular, they were concerned that overseas pension funds that had higher standards of investment and that wanted to invest in places where they knew they would be getting a good return for their members and would also be helping to tackle global warming and make cities more sustainable might be disproportionately impacted. Indeed, according to the advice we had received and to what a number of people, including the Property Council of Australia said, it was these kinds of funds that were disproportionately higher players in investing in these kinds of sustainable buildings.

Equally of concern to the Greens is securing this country's revenue base. It is becoming crystal clear that there have been large numbers of promises and aspirations about what government should spend its money on, many of them incredibly worthwhile and areas that the Greens have been at the forefront of championing, from investment in schools to getting health into dental care to giving a $50-a-week increase to those who are on Newstart or youth allowance and are doing it toughest. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the money is running out. The government often boasts that they are keeping revenue as a proportion of GDP much lower than it was under former Prime Minister John Howard. To me, that is not a boast; it is a problem, because it means that we now, for example, find ourselves having in the order of $24 billion a year less revenue than we otherwise might have. That is part of the reason we see proposals like Gonski school reform being pushed out past 2020, other proposals unable to be funded in a timely manner and services increasingly at risk, such that we might not have enough money to fund the kinds of services Australians rightfully expect in an advanced, First World economy.

So we have the question of how we begin to secure the revenue base. The principle behind the government's bill was one that we, the Greens, supported. Because this is a parliament in which the diversity of the views in the community is represented, we were able to negotiate a sensible outcome. We will be in a position where we can not only help secure the Commonwealth's revenue base but also continue to drive investment in clean buildings and in sustainable buildings. I, as someone who represents an inner-city electorate, and the Greens are acutely conscious of the fact that a substantial amount of greenhouse gas pollution comes from cities, and that includes our built environment. We need to be doing everything we can to ensure that investors do make the choice to invest in buildings that will reduce energy usage, reduce pollution and reduce the costs to the tenants who live in them.

After discussions with the government, we are very pleased that the government agreed that a way of meeting both objectives would be to provide essentially a concessional rate for managed investment trusts in new energy-efficient buildings. I note that the coalition says that this is somehow some kind of payback, but that is not so. It is a genuine response to genuine concerns expressed by many in the business community, and I welcome the fact that the coalition will not oppose it. I commend the bill to the House.