House debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017; Consideration of Senate Message

12:23 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

We are glad that the government is accepting the will of the parliament on the Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017. We are glad that the government is accepting these amendments because these are good amendments moved by the Labor Party. This is a commonsense result. It is a better result than the one the government was seeking. Let me be very clear. As I said in the House the other day and as I have said consistently, the Labor Party support the principle of a zero threshold on the GST. We support it because it is important for the competitive neutrality of our tax system or, to put it another way, to enable Australia's businesses, especially small businesses, to compete on a level playing field. Australia's small businesses are no longer competing with businesses in the same suburb, the same state or the same country; they are competing with businesses around the world, and businesses around the world have had a competitive advantage over our businesses. So we have supported what the government is trying to do.

The Treasurer said in his remarks that it is regrettable that this was not able to be done earlier. Well, the government is the government. This was announced by the previous Treasurer, Treasurer Hockey, in 2015. It was meant to come into force on 1 July 2017 and yet, on 21 June, we are debating this legislation for something which was meant to come into force in just 10 days time. The government is responsible for the delay here, but it is not the only thing the government is responsible for.

We took the in-principle support for this legislation and we consulted with the sector. My friend and colleague the shadow Assistant Treasurer—the member for Fenner—the member for Chifley and our friend Senator Gallacher consulted very widely on this. It became very clear to us that there were valid concerns about the implementation model which should be addressed through a Senate inquiry, and we instigated that Senate inquiry.

I again pay tribute to Senator Ketter and the other Labor senators who got to the nub of the issue in the Senate inquiry, so much so that even Liberal senators thought that this should be delayed by a year and recommended so such was the evidence before the Senate inquiry. The amendments that have been moved in the other house by us—flagged by me in this House and moved in the other house by us—delay this legislation by a year. Once this passes, it will come into force on 1 July 2018—it should be the law of the land. It does that, but it enables more time.

Very importantly, it requires the government to instigate a Productivity Commission inquiry into this. We do not want the commission to delay the matter. We do not want the commission to spend time sorting through issues unnecessarily. We want the Productivity Commission, for which we have respect on this side of the House—as do members opposite—to look at the implementation model. As I have said to those with concerns, if you cannot convince the Productivity Commission, then you will just have to cop the law of the land as it is. If the Productivity Commission recommends a change to the government, we would hope and expect the government to accept those change and come back to the House. So it is a matter for the government.

The amendments do not require the government to take action; they require the government to refer the matter to the Productivity Commission and for the Productivity Commission to examine the model only—not the principle, the model only—because we have had briefings from many affected people who say the model is simply unworkable. The Treasury evidence itself before the Senate inquiry showed that, at peak, this model would collect just over 50 per cent of the estimated potential revenue. If you want our businesses to compete on a level playing field, what you are doing is half the job by saying, 'We're only going to collect just over half the projected potential revenue.' So Australia's small businesses will be very disappointed with that model—that it was only going to fix half the problem.

There are people who say there are superior models. We are not in a position to design a model from opposition without the support of Treasury. We would not seek to do so, but we do have faith that the Productivity Commission can examine the issues and advise the government of a better way, if indeed a better way exists, as to how to implement that. We look forward to that.

It is regrettable the way the government has handled this matter but, nevertheless, I do thank the government for their engagement over the last few days. I thank the crossbenchers in the Senate for supporting the Labor amendments. Only with the crossbench support were we able to carry the day in the other place, which has put the government in a position where they accept these amendments in the House today. I think, very briefly, the member for Fenner is going to add to my remarks. We do not seek to delay this matter. The member for Fenner has a brief contribution to make.


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