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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 106

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women's Issues) (4:44 PM) —The Tax Laws Amendment (Retirement Villages) Bill 2004 makes some minor amendments to the new tax system to remove public uncertainty in relation to the GST treatment of retirement villages. It is not that the government's policy on the GST treatment of serviced apartments in retirement villages has changed. It has always been the government's intention that GST-free treatment apply where residents require daily living or nursing assistance. The government is simply removing uncertainty surrounding a potential ATO ruling that may have the effect of changing the GST treatment for some residents. The government is confirming that, in the context of the ruling, residents of serviced apartments in retirement villages who are assessed as requiring daily living and nursing assistance will receive these services GST free where the retirement village provides the daily living and nursing assistance in line with the quality of care principles under the Aged Care Act 1997.

The other main part of the bill concerns the charitable sector. Retirement villages operated by the charitable sector receive GST concessions in relation to accommodation, related services and meals if they meet certain guidelines—and always have. This bill protects that treatment.

The opposition is accusing the government, in effect, of a lack of care for elderly Australians, and I reject this accusation totally. In fact, this is just one of a range of measures this government is committed to which recognise the contributions of senior Australians and the issues faced by retirement home residents. The government has announced a comprehensive program involving more financial support and respite for carers, and exempting accommodation bonds paid by people entering low-level care, hostels or homes from the social security and Veterans' Affairs assets tests until bonds are refunded. These measures complement other government initiatives such as making a national health priority of dementia and increasing at-home support for people living with dementia; a 100 per cent Medicare rebate; and the increased private health insurance rebate—for people aged 65 to 69, increasing it to 35 per cent, and for people aged 70 and over, increasing it to 40 per cent. I add that the government has moved quickly to remove public uncertainty about the potential Taxation Office ruling. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.