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Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Page: 4451

Mr RIPOLL (10:01 AM) —I thank the House for this opportunity to record some of my views on the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Measures No. 2) Bill 2009. Firstly, it is a bill designed to either amend, fix or otherwise bring into order a range of tax matters and issues in order to provide for a more robust, better, more efficient and streamlined taxation system. That is at the core of not only what this government has been about in coming to government but also what we philosophically believe in terms of providing a system not only for ordinary PAYG taxpayers but also for business—small, medium and large—to provide them with the tools that they need to get on with the job of business. As such, this tax laws amendment bill works to improve the current system. Secondly, it deals with a number of very important matters that are specific to recent tragedies of the bushfires in Victoria and other places. I acknowledge the comments by previous speakers in relation to that.

It is a fairly straightforward bill. It has a number of schedules, and I will work through those systematically. Schedule 1 outlines the financial claim schemes that were enacted in October 2008. The introduction of the legislation for these schemes was brought forward because of the global financial crisis, so it was not able to include the consequential taxation amendments at that particular point. The present package contains those taxation amendments. In broad terms, it aims to provide the same taxation treatment for payments that APRA makes under the financial claim schemes as would have applied to payments made by the failed financial institution or insurance company.

It also deals with capital gains and losses specifically in relation to rights that were created by the financial claim schemes which are ignored. Payments in relation to a farm management deposit, for example, or a retirement savings account or a first home saver account will generally have to be made into another account of the same type. That poses some challenges in terms of reordering that. What this does is ensure that the normal restrictions on withdrawing amounts from those particular accounts are maintained.

It is important for the integrity of the tax system, for the policies of this government and for taxpayers generally that taxpayer money being placed into these types of schemes and accounts be properly accounted for and that the restrictions that normally apply are applied right across the board. This ensures that the normal restrictions on withdrawing amounts are properly maintained. Those payments will generally be treated as a rollover from one account to another account to avoid them being treated as if they were a new account being opened, which they are not. APRA will be subject to the same obligations to withhold amounts from payments and to the same reporting obligations in relation to amounts withheld or rolled over that the failed institution would have been. That will provide the necessary integrity and clarity for people who find themselves covered by these changes.

Schedule 2 increases the access for small business to capital gains tax concessions. It deals with not only tax concessions on capital gains but also losses. This is for taxpayers who own a capital gains tax asset which is used in a business but specifically by an affiliate or an entity connected with that taxpayer and for partners owning a capital gains tax asset which is used in the partnership business. This will have effect from the 2007-08 income year. It is important to recognise that, for many businesses and partnerships, assets are owned by different entities within that business or across partnerships and they should have the same capital gains tax concessions as other parties. It is a fairly sensible and straightforward change that needs to be made, and we are making it.

I note that these amendments have been actively sought by industry as part of our process of consultation with industry and with the sector. We need to make sure that we reduce the amount of red tape, compliance burdens and costs on small business and so we need to move quickly to make these changes and bring about a fairer, better and more efficient system of taxation.

The amendments under schedule 2 also make a number of changes to clarify and refine elements of the small business capital gains tax concessions so they operate in a flexible manner, as is the proper intent. Industry stakeholders did express support for the measures during the consultation process; in fact, a number of stakeholders suggested additional changes to the scope and application of the small business capital gains tax concessions. Although they were not adopted, as they were beyond the scope of the current amendments, they were certainly listened to and formed part of the decision-making process. Another reason those changes were not adopted is that we believed they would lead to more complex provisions or greater compliance costs for taxpayers. Overall, schedule 2 brings about some necessary changes. (Quorum formed) Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, this is an outrageous abuse of the democratic process in this place—to gag a speaker on such a controversial piece of legislation such as the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Measures No. 2) Bill 2009! I note for the record that we have got only two members of the opposition in here, because none of the others can be bothered to come in and hear about a decent piece of legislation that deals with a whole range of tax measures that their mob over there had 12 years to fix. They could not be bothered, in 12 years, to do anything—

Mr Lindsay —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order, which is that the member is required to speak to the legislation before the parliament. You should bring him back to the legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—I will determine that. The member for Herbert has no point of order.

Mr Melham interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Banks! The member for Oxley has the call. Could those on my right either resume their seats and remain silent or leave the chamber.

Mr RIPOLL —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for drawing to the attention of the member for Herbert the fact that his point of order was out of order. That is exactly what it was: trying to gag the debate on this essential bit of legislation.

I would note that taxation is one of the most important and critical parts of the Australian economic system that we have in this country and something that this government has been committed to since winning the election: actually dealing with it properly, after 12 years of the mob on the other side sitting on their hands. I am sure their hands are so numb they can barely get up and flick through their standing orders to find a new point of order on which they could possibly sit me down and not have me speak on this bill. But I turn back—

Mr Ciobo —How’s that franchising report going, Bernie?

Mr RIPOLL —The franchising report is going very, very well, in fact. I turn back to why this bill in particular and these schedules are very much part of modernising the Australian tax system and ensure that we provide small business—while the Liberal and National parties may think that this is their constituency, it always seems to me that it is Labor governments who make the hard decisions and make the necessary changes for them—with a more efficient method of taxation, a means by which to reduce red tape and bureaucracy and, in the end, a means through the tax system to ensure that they can get on with their business of providing services and products to the Australian community and economy, rather than being burdened or saddled with masses of legislation. I am sure the two members of the opposition sitting at the table would understand that, given that during their reign of power there was a doubling and tripling of the amount of taxation laws, creating this massive burden and impost on ordinary businesspeople trying to go about their daily work.

In relation to tax benefits and capital gains tax, our amendments under schedule 3 provide a general exemption from capital gains tax for capital gains or capital losses arising from a right or entitlement to a tax offset, deduction or similar benefit. That is pretty important, given the current environment, and adds to the number of incentives that this government has provided to small business operators and owners, medium-sized enterprises and large businesses to ensure that they can properly deal with the economic circumstances that have been thrust on us by the global financial crisis.

The amendment puts beyond doubt that a capital gain or capital loss would not arise for taxpayers who have a right to receive a tax offset, a deduction or any other tax benefit on the satisfaction of that right. Without going into the great list of incentives, offsets and deductions that we have put in place, this is an important measure to ensure that the tax system works hand in hand with the community and hand in hand with business operators.

Mr Ciobo —You should go through the list. It wouldn’t take long. There are only one or two.

Mr RIPOLL —I can hear a faint, distant voice from a member of the opposition. It is only faint because on these matters they are very quiet; they just peep up a little bit in the background. In the end, it is not so much that you should be measured in this place by what you say; you should be measured by what you do. I am very proud of the legacy that this government will leave, whether it is infrastructure development, boosting the economy, providing tax offsets and improvements to the tax system or greater efficiencies. Beyond doubt, the government’s economic stimulus packages have made a great contribution to Australia, ensuring not only that we survive the economic crisis brought on by global circumstances but also that we thrive and that people get on with their day-to-day lives and their business affairs.

Industry stakeholders particularly have expressed support for the measures we are putting forward and we thank them for their support—the Australian Industry Group, other business organisations, independent economists and others. They support the measures because they are really good measures, designed to be in the national interest. We hear all sorts of abuse from the other side when particular groups are mentioned, but they cannot have it both ways. When it suits you, you cannot be patting them on the back and when they say something that may not suit you, you cannot say that their voice is irrelevant or has no credibility. That is a real issue. I do not think the opposition understand that. They have some real issues with what they see as a voice out in the community, a balanced and fair interpretation or analysis of the things we are putting forward.

Having been an opposition member in this place for a very long time, almost 10 years, causes me to reflect on the things I could have done had I been in government for that time. The greatest lost opportunity which sticks in my mind—the things you can never really reverse, never really undo, the things you lament when you talk to your communities—is the lack of investment in infrastructure. In the good days, we used to come into this place and speak about the rivers of gold, the unexpected revenue and the windfalls that fell into the previous government’s lap. When you think about the opportunities lost—

Mr Lindsay —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In accordance with standing order 76, I ask you to bring the member back to the question being considered in this debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thank the member for Herbert for his advice. I am listening to the member for Oxley. I remind him of the bill before the House, the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Measures No. 2) Bill 2009.

Mr RIPOLL —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The only issue as to relevance is the opposition’s relevance deprivation syndrome. The opposition are completely irrelevant when it comes to tax law, efficiencies for small business and other things, which is exactly what this bill is about. I am sure if anyone is listening or perhaps will read this later—if I am so lucky—they will think I am being completely relevant.

The changes we are bringing about in this bill will provide a better tax system, doing the things that the previous government either were not interested in or did not have the fortitude to do. That reminds me of all the lost opportunities, the things we could have done in those 10 years in opposition by stimulating the economy and providing a legacy of infrastructure—ports, rail, road, things which make a difference to communities, regardless of who represents them.

We have been left with a great task, a task which we willingly face with great responsibility. My community shares the Ipswich Motorway—which we have heard a lot about—with neighbouring electorates. For all of the transport companies and small businesses using that lifeblood of a highway as a link between workplaces and homes, or business-to-business interactions, having to wait more than a decade for action to be taken and having to wait for a change of government has had a huge cost. It would be an interesting exercise to see opportunity cost, the cost to the economy today and how better placed we would have been during those three revenue rich years of the previous government—(Time expired)