House debates

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Tax Laws Amendment (2010 Measures No. 5) Bill 2010

Second Reading

10:20 am

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to support the Tax Laws Amendment (2010 Measures No. 5) Bill 2010. This bill is largely uncontroversial. It deals with seven aspects in various schedules. As we have just heard in the dissertation from my learned friend the member for Fadden, film tax offsets are one of those areas. The other matters dealt with in this bill are protected borrowings, capital gains tax exemptions, deductions for terminal medical conditions by super funds, capital gains tax concessions for not-for-profit subentities, concessions in running balanced accounts, and educational expense tax offsets covering school uniforms. As I said, these are largely uncontroversial. The last one I mentioned gives rise to the government’s commitment to include school uniforms as part of the education tax refund.

There are two areas on which I would like to concentrate my contribution. The first is schedule 4, which deals with the release of benefits for terminal medical conditions by super funds. This will bring it in line with the requirements under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act, which provides for conditions of release in the case of terminal medical conditions. Presently, under the act, deductions are allowable in the case of death, permanent incapacity, temporary incapacity or for relief of those medical conditions. What it does not do is provide conditions of release in terminal medical conditions. This schedule will bring it in accord with the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994.

Aside from this, oddly enough earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak in this parliament on behalf of a constituent, Ms Leanne Kilmore, who was diagnosed with a very rare form of breast cancer. Immediate surgery was prescribed. After surgery she was placed on what I understand to be the highest dose of chemotherapy. Ms Kilmore, a single mum of two, sought to get some relief from her superannuation fund because, being a single mum, she still had the dilemma of running a household and providing for her kids while not being able to work and while undertaking the surgery and chemotherapy. It is a really sad story because she had to set aside the last parts of her chemo treatment. It got to a stage where she had exhausted all her leave and she needed her employment to provide for her children. She did not have the assistance of family and friends and, despite the advice of her doctors, had to set aside her last chemotherapy treatments. Notwithstanding the unilateral decision she did take, she has made a full recovery.

The point I make about this is that, when Ms Kilmore applied for relief out of her superannuation fund after her surgery, at the stage of her chemotherapy treatment her condition was not legally regarded as a terminal condition. Maybe if she had made the application prior to the chemo treatment, when she was diagnosed as having this rare form of breast cancer and requiring immediate surgery, it would have been different. I would like to think that in future there might be some latitude and super funds will not simply be allowed to hide behind the face of the regulations. I have seen the consequence of a mum who took a decision in very dire circumstances, without the support of family, to set aside what could have been life-saving treatment. In her case, fortunately, she recovered, but I do think her example is a salient reminder to us that not everything that occurs in life is black and white and there does need to be some flexibility.

The other area I would like to talk about is schedule 7, which deals with school uniform costs. It amends the education expense tax offset, which is the educational expenses tax refund. This is an area of policy I am particularly proud of. In my electorate of Fowler there is a very high proportion of families. There are 6,700 families with school kids under the age of 15. That is a significant number. Fowler also has a high population of migrants, all going to new schools. Speaking of migrants, I have the distinction of having the most multicultural electorate in the whole country. A lot of new Australians, particularly refugees, decide to settle there. We have a community that values diverse cultures and traditions and we rejoice in it.

Schedule 7 is quite significant. Sending a kid to school in jeans and a T-shirt may not look so flash compared to other children turning up in expensive shoes, expensive joggers—fashion statements on the run, particularly for high school students. A uniform is very positive for high school students. Apart from showing a uniform position of the student body, it not only promotes school pride but also is an opportunity to promote schools amongst our community. Most of the schools in my community have both a summer and a winter uniform, so that adds additional expense. There is no doubt when the education expense tax offset was introduced it was an amazing success, providing up to 50 per cent of eligible expenses or up to $780 per student in primary school and $1,558 for eligible expenses for secondary students. These are quite significant contributions to the financial relief that parents need. Provisioning children for school is not an inexpensive option these days. I have been able to survive that myself, but now I see what my daughter is going through with her three children going to school and I can sympathise—but, fortunately, it is not my direct responsibility these days. No doubt my daughter Elizabeth is quite happy with the education tax refund, particularly for what it has meant in the provisioning of computers for kids, accessing of books and all the rest of it.

Surprisingly enough, this year they have decided to move closer to home. I am very pleased that they have decided to move a couple of kilometres up the road from us, but the thing is they had to change schools for three kids. That meant a new set of uniforms, but, for the first time, these uniforms will be eligible expenses for the purposes of the education tax refund. I think that is a very positive thing for the community and the school, and it certainly helps mums and dads with their expenses and providing for their school age children.

I just mentioned my electorate being the most multicultural in the country. I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the Cabramatta Cabra-Vale Lions Club and particularly its president, Ms Jenny Tew, for their efforts with local youth. Significantly, the Lions Club also took it upon itself to set up two junior clubs, called Leo clubs. One of those clubs was for Cabramatta High School and the second was for Pal College. This involves young students of high school age in the values and ethics of the Lions Club and shows them that it is good to participate in assisting others. Amazingly, these two clubs raised $10,000 for the flood victims of Queensland. It is a good thing for young people to be involved in. It is certainly very healthy to be able to learn community values in a positive way. I thank the Lions Club for what it has done in that area, building on lasting friendships and demonstrating the value of service to the community, leadership and personal development. These are very important qualities for Australians, and it is particularly important for youth to grow up understanding the value of those qualities and what they mean for our community.

I also thank Ms Beth Godwin, Principal of Cabramatta High School, who has been so exceptional in her student leadership. For the work she has done she was recently recognised by the Fairfield City Council as its citizen of the year. She runs a fabulous school. I get to see the product of her work; there are a very positive bunch of young people growing up at the school, paving the way for great advances in the community at large. I also thank the Principal of Pal College, Mr Seth Pal. His college distinguishes itself with its pride in the development of community values as part of its curriculum, ensuring that young people have the opportunity to understand that being part of a modern community is not about what you get from the community but about what you contribute to it. Those two principals do a sterling job and I am very proud to have those two schools operating so well in my electorate.

I conclude by saying, as I said at the outset, that this bill is largely uncontroversial. It does some very good things in its seven schedules, but I would like to credit the government in particular for schedules 4 and 7. Not only in my electorate but in my own family, I get to see the value of the education tax refund. The extension of it to provide for uniforms will make a very real difference for many people, particularly those on low incomes. I commend the bill to the House.


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