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Thursday, 13 April 2000
Page: 15942

Mr JENKINS (1:54 PM) —The Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 11) 1999 is an omnibus bill to amend the law relating to taxation for related purposes. In my contribution to this debate, I wish to speak to one measure relating to the extension of the period of deductibility for certain donations, but because I will be interrupted by question time I will leave that issue for a later hour. It also gives me the opportunity to discuss the context in which we find ourselves with the changes to tax policy at the very moment. I wish to speak to the second reading amendment moved by the member for Wills which outlines some of the opposition's concerns about the way in which the present changes to taxation are taking place.

Today could be a no more appropriate day to be discussing the problems the government is having in its administration of tax because we have seen yet another backflip on a decision relating to tax matters. I refer to the decision overnight to give a business tax reprieve which will see a $1 billion hole put in the post-Ralph committee changes to business tax. It is these types of changes that are making it very difficult for the opposition to come to some position about which changes it is willing to support the government to put in place. Like many areas of government administration, the implementation of tax changes by this government has been deplorable. Even if we take the point that the opposition disagrees with the ideological base for many of the tax changes, the simple fact is that this government continually shows itself to be inept in the way in which it puts in place matters of public policy. Whether they be matters to do with nursing homes, taxation or a whole range of public policy, this government is characterised by its inability to do that in an appropriate manner.

The opposition's second reading amendment mentions that there has been delay by the government in bringing this legislation before the parliament. The first item of the legislation is the integrity measures concerning alienation of Australian real property by non-residents. It arises out of a decision in the Lamesa Holdings case in 1997. What did we see from the Treasurer but delay in reacting to that decision. We saw that he reacted by issuing a press release on 27 April 1998—months after the decision was announced—with the intention to legislate to overcome the Lamesa decision. Now we have had to wait even further to get this legislation in place. The legislation was not introduced until almost 20 months after the announcement, and it has been given such a low priority that it is only scheduled for debate now and is likely to be in operation two years after the event with two years retrospectivity—around 26 months after the original announcement.

As I said when speaking to another piece of legislation earlier today, there are other examples of this government's tardiness and delay in taking action to block up loopholes in different pieces of legislation. I refer to the way the GST is being implemented. I note the comments by the member for Northern Territory, wherein he highlighted the problems of not-for-profit organisations that operate in his electorate and their difficulty in being able to get proper information because of language difficulties. This is characterised by the way this government has been providing information for the not-for-profit sector in the way the GST changes will affect them. That type of information has been inadequate. These organisations go from simply being able to get tax relief by ticking a box to having to fill in all sorts of forms and activity reports. In the worst case scenario, many of the types of administration they will have to carry out after 1 July have not been put in place. The activity reports have not been made available. When members read that people are being told that everything to do with the GST is simple, it should read `complex', because not-for-profit organisations are having to fill in forms that do not relate to them—because they are not in the business of making money and they do not have the same culture as those in the business of making profit.

In question time today, we will more than likely have either P1 or P2—the Treasurer or the Minister for Employment, Workplace Rel-ations and Small Business—come forward and say that all the things to do with the administration of the GST are hunky-dory, that everything is rosy. They will overlook headlines like that in the Australian of Tuesday this week, `Firms admit GST noncompliance', or in the Canberra Times yesterday, `Offer “not enough” to beat tax brain drain', where the article reported that the Australian Taxation Office are losing officers because they cannot keep hold of them as a result of not being able to remunerate them adequately. This whole system is in crisis.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 101A. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Scullin will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.