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Thursday, 6 June 2002
Page: 3394

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (10:21 AM) —in reply—At this stage I usually thank honourable members for their contributions. I think the member for Werriwa was being a little precious when he said that the period he has been given to look at these bills has not been adequate. These are bills which are very positive. The opposition did agree for those bills to be brought here to the noncontentious chamber and I do thank the opposition for their support on this occasion. I do think, however, that the government has nothing to apologise for over the time frame because these are important bills. The opposition has had the opportunity to scrutinise them and the scrutiny of those bills has seen the member for Werriwa, representing the opposition, come into the chamber to back these important changes by the government.

I would also, of course, like to welcome the honourable member for Werriwa back to the parliament. In the debate on the superannuation legislation yesterday he was supposed to lead the opposition debate but he was elbowed aside by the member for Fraser, who is currently shadow Treasurer—I suspect it will not be too long before we see the honourable member for Werriwa in that position. The member for Werriwa spat the dummy and refused to participate in the debate. So it is nice to see the member for Werriwa return to parliament and return to his responsibilities. We were starting to wonder whether indeed the member for Werriwa was going to run away from debates in relation to financial matters in the parliament.

As I pointed out earlier, we are considering three bills: the New Business Tax System (Imputation) Bill 2002, the New Business Tax System (Franking Deficit Tax) Bill 2002, and the New Business Tax System (Over-franking Tax) Bill 2002. These bills are a package of measures which are designed to introduce a new, simplified imputation system to replace the current imputation system.

The first bill, the New Business Tax System (Imputation) Bill 2002, contains the core imputation provisions as they apply to companies and their shareholders. The measures form part of the government response to the review of business tax recommendations to reform the imputation system and simplify the franking process for corporate entities. The measures will apply from 1 July this year and simplify the mechanics of the current system. That said, the new provisions will broadly maintain the same outcome as the current system and will not impact on the tax treatment of dividends received by individuals. Simplification of the franking process will result in reduced compliance costs for all stakeholders as the simpler rules will be easier to understand and apply.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be aware that the measures give more flexibility for entities' franking dividends and will enable them to provide more certainty to members about their likely franking policies in relation to future dividends. Most importantly, we ought to recognise that this measure has been developed in consultation with representatives of the tax profession, and business has indicated that it also supports these measures.

The New Business Tax System (Franking Deficit Tax) Bill 2002 is another one of the package of three bills, and measures contained in this particular bill provide a mechanism to ensure corporate tax entities make good any over-imputation of franking credits on distributions to members. The third bill, the New Business Tax System (Over-franking Tax) Bill, contains measures which impose over-franking tax where distributions are franked to a greater extent than the maximum allowed.

The member for Werriwa referred to revenue implications of these particular bills and I am pleased to reassure the honourable member that the new imputation system will have no impact on government revenue. The member for Werriwa will no doubt be pleased to see that this is in fact the case. The member for Werriwa also referred to the fact that I addressed the matter of public importance on behalf of the government yesterday, as indeed I did on the day before. I pointed out in the MPI debate yesterday that apparently the member for Werriwa submitted the MPI proposal yesterday and on the day before but the member for Fraser, who is feeling quite insecure these days, essentially pushed the member for Werriwa aside and said that he was going to maintain the debate, and the member for Werriwa failed to participate in either of those debates on the matters of public importance. It is a bit, shall we say, facile for the member for Werriwa to criticise the fact that, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, I am addressing these matters on behalf of the government when, as the shadow minister for the opposition, the member for Werriwa simply was nowhere to be seen. He just ran away from parliament. It is reassuring that the Leader of the Opposition or perhaps someone else has spoken to the member for Werriwa and he has now decided that enough is enough and he ought to participate once again.

The differences between the member for Werriwa and the honourable member for Fraser go very deeply in relation to a range of economic issues. The issue of the day is, of course, how long the opposition can sustain itself as a viable force. The interesting point is that the Leader of the Opposition might well be replaced by the honourable member for Brand, his predecessor, and the member for Werriwa and the shadow Treasurer are having some important differences on economic policy.

Mr Quick —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I do not usually get up and interrupt a speaker but I would ask that you bring the parliamentary secretary back to the bills at hand, and not let him continue with the discussion about the potential change of roles of the member for Werriwa and the member for Fraser.

Mr SLIPPER —I thank my friend and colleague for his intervention at this time. These are important bills and it is interesting that the member for Werriwa has decided to participate. It is interesting that on this occasion the member for Fraser has not chopped the member for Werriwa out of this particular debate. It is pretty clear that the uncreative tensions in the Australian Labor Party continue to bubble to the surface, and indeed the member for Werriwa has on this occasion been able to keep the shadow Treasurer out of the debate.

Mr McClelland —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I do not think I need to remind the honourable member that this chamber exists with the goodwill of both sides. Indeed, it would be relatively easy for the opposition to withdraw support and hence withdraw a quorum. I note that fact from the point of view of the government's business on the agenda.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. L.R.S. Price)—I draw the attention of the parliamentary secretary to the bill at hand.

Mr SLIPPER —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was only tempted to make those comments because of remarks made by the honourable member for Werriwa in his speech. Having said that, I have made my point. I stand by what I said. I commend the bill to the chamber, and I thank the opposition for their support.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.