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Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Page: 3077

Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (10:15): As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I rise to speak about the Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Tax Integrity and Other Measures No. 1) Bill 2019 now before the Senate. After all, the Senate is a house of review, and the change we have achieved together today is a clear example of the Senate delivering on its core purpose of review.

I speak to One Nation's achievements in standing up again for the people of Australia—particularly for those people from rural and regional Australia who would have been belted by the effects of this bill had we not stood up for them and changed the bill. I would also like to acknowledge the cooperation and valuable support of our crossbenchers, including Centre Alliance, who supported our stand when we raised this matter with them. Their change to schedule 5, after discussions with us, has achieved a win over big government for hardworking Australians so that we are not dobbed into credit reporting agencies by the Australian Taxation Office. Senator Patrick, I acknowledge your office's working with our office. I commend the Senate for adopting this.

The inclusion of our real checks and balances will protect the rights of individual Australians from government and from tax office interference with our basic property rights. It was unfortunate, to say the least, that this bill, in its original form, had not adequately considered the consequences of such onerous provisions to everyday Australians. We identified the obvious problems with schedule 3, which would have denied the farmers the right to claim for expenses associated with their land. Our primary producers should not be disadvantaged just because their land is not earning income every year. If it weren't for One Nation and the support we got from the crossbenchers, this would not have happened.

I remind the Senate that farmers have financial obligations and costs, such as land and weed management, that continue even when a property is vacant and not earning income. The government disallowing a claim for legitimate expenses does not recognise the long-term approach that farmers take in agriculture. As a digression, let me mention again United Nations Agenda 21, where farmers are prevented from using parts of their land that they've portioned off, yet they still have to maintain that land and still have the costs of maintaining that land. We need to not just talk about the assets the farmers have; we need to talk about the costs that government imposes arbitrarily on them as part of an international dictate.

Let's get back to this bill. It is also important to consider the potential impact to everyday Australians outside the city, outside the farming areas, such as the unit owners in capital cities, like those of Opal Tower, who may have been caught in this bill's net had we not acted. Months after hundreds of people were evacuated from the Opal Tower in Sydney's west, residents still fear that they won't be able to return home until late this year. It seems only fair that Australians such as these should be able to claim for legitimate deductions while their investment property is not habitable.

We all have a role to play in protecting the productive capacity of our agricultural land, our rural businesses, and our homes. Our primary producers, in particular, contribute so much to our lifestyle and to our unique Australian culture. Just like this bill, the government has talked about recent dam refurbishment projects as though they were solving all of our problems. The truth is they are not. The people of Australia would prefer to see that the government stop tinkering around the edges and that they get on and invested in new water storage capacity. This will go a lot further towards ensuring water security for our farms and farmers. The facts are that the government has announced two dam refurbishments, not new dams, and this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what we really need to drought-proof rural Australia. Government sees the need to distort the message, to look good, whereas what we are about is doing good.

On 17 September 2019 Minister Littleproud stated that water storage in Queensland had dropped from 2.75 to 1.75 megalitres per person and said that there has been no water storage planning or thinking. What the hell is going on in this country? We consider the problems we have encountered with this amendment bill on tax, and I ask the question on behalf of our farmers and regional communities: where are your visionary water storage projects, what funds have been allocated to each and what stage are they at today?

The same can be said of our tax laws as a whole. It is time for real tax reform. Everyday Australians do not want more tax amendments and a pile of complex tax laws. They deserve a better, simpler system. It is time for the government to stop just trying to look good and to focus on doing good. One Nation would not wish such onerous conditions as were contemplated in this original bill on anyone and we would not want people to be disadvantaged further through the unintended consequences of this bill as it originally was. I acknowledge the work of the skilled and professional team in my office, who are the ones who identified the risks in the proposed amendment bill and who were able to clearly see the unintended consequences for hardworking everyday Australians.

In conclusion, we in One Nation will continue to deliver on the core purpose of the Senate as a house of review. This amendment bill is a clear example of the Senate achieving that core purpose. We and the other crossbenchers are doing our best to review legislation and to work with the government to protect the lifestyle, jobs, property rights and assets of hardworking everyday Australians.