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Thursday, 7 September 2017
Page: 9612

Mr SUKKAR (DeakinAssistant Minister to the Treasurer) (09:59): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

To support Australian households, the government has designed a comprehensive package of measures which includes assisting first home buyers, increasing the supply of affordable housing and reforms to housing related payments to the states and territories.

The changes contained in this bill are part of the government's 2017-18 budget package to reducing pressure on housing affordability.

This bill amends the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 to implement an annual vacancy charge on foreign owners of residential real estate where property is not occupied or genuinely available on the rental market for at least six months in a 12-month period.

The vacancy charge builds on the government's existing foreign investment regime which seeks to increase the number of houses available for Australians to live in. The charge provides a financial incentive for the foreign owner to make their property available on the rental market.

The charge payable will be equivalent to the residential application fee that was paid by the foreign person at the time the application to purchase the property was made to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

The vacancy charge applies to foreign persons who make a foreign investment application for residential property from 7.30 pm on 9 May 2017. For eligible foreign owners of residential real estate the vacancy charge will be levied on an annual basis.

The annual vacancy charge is expected to result in greater use of foreign-owned properties. Reporting and notification requirements are also expected to provide greater visibility of vacancy rates for foreign-owned properties.

The Australian Taxation Office will administer the vacancy charge.

This bill represents an important component of the government's comprehensive plan to reduce pressure on housing affordability.

Full details of the bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

Debate adjourned.