House debates

Tuesday, 23 May 2023


Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 2) Bill 2023; Second Reading

12:13 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 2) Bill 2023. I advise the House that the coalition will support this bill, as it implements a number of budget measures of the former coalition government. This bill, through these measures, provides support to primary producers and small businesses and for home ownership, and it provides relief to low-income earners struggling to deal with inflation. This is in marked contrast to the general themes of this government's budget, which left people in these categories behind.

This is a Treasury laws omnibus bill containing five schedules. In my contribution, firstly, I want to outline what each of these schedules deals with; secondly, I will explain the reason for the opposition's support for the measures, very much based on the fact that such measures largely stem from the coalition's strong economic policies when in government; thirdly, I'll draw a contrast between the measures in this bill—which are sensible and which the coalition is pleased to support—and the budget, which leaves middle Australia behind and facing a cost-of-living crisis.

I turn firstly, then, to the schedules in the bill. Schedule 1 amends the Medicare Levy Act 1986 and the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 to index low-income and family Medicare levy thresholds in line with the consumer price index. This will increase the number of people who are under the thresholds, who would otherwise be captured due to inflation.

Schedule 2 addresses a grandfathering issue from the sale of the Commonwealth Bank that, if not amended, would prohibit the future sale of the Commonwealth Bank superannuation funds to another entity.

Schedule 3 amends the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to allow primary producers to treat carbon abatement income as primary production income for the purposes of the farm management deposits scheme and assessing income tax averaging arrangements for primary producers.

Schedule 4 amends the Taxation Assessment Act 1953 to reduce the GDP adjustment factor for the 2023-24 income tax year. The GDP adjustment factor is a key input in calculating pay-as-you-go and GST instalments payable to taxpayers. This schedule implements a measure in the 2023-24 budget entitled 'Small business support—helping small business manage their tax instalments and improving cash flow'

Schedule 5 amends the NHFIC Act to allow NHFIC to be given direction in its investment mandate with regard to eligibility for home guarantees. This is achieved by adding into the act a new object for NHFIC: supporting early access to the housing market for Australians who have not owned real estate for 10 years.

I turn to the reasons why the coalition is supporting these measures. Let me speak firstly about schedule 4 of the bill, which reduces the GDP adjustment factor. This builds on a commitment made by the coalition in our March 2022 budget to support small businesses with their cash flow by adjusting the GDP adjustment factor used by the Australian Taxation Office to calculate PAYG and GST instalments. This measure will be revenue neutral over time while supporting small businesses to keep more of their cash. This is critical because we know cash flow is one of the biggest challenges facing any small business.

This legislation, long overdue, builds on the coalition's strong record of supporting small businesses to access finance and to improve their cash flow. Our record on this side of the House when it comes to these matters includes establishing the Payment Times Reporting Scheme to name and shame those who make late payments to small businesses; establishing the Payment Times Procurement Connected Policy to ensure that government contractors pay their small-business supply chain on government terms; shifting payment times for government contracts to 30 days, or five days for e-invoicing; shifting from monthly to quarterly BAS reporting, business activity statement reporting, for small and medium enterprises; restoring and expanding the instant asset write-off; cutting the small-business tax rate to 25 per cent and increasing the small-business tax offset for sole traders; and supporting Australian small businesses with over $35.8 billion of cash flow relief during the COVID pandemic.

The strong track record of the coalition in supporting small businesses stands in stark contrast to a range of troubling aspects of the latest budget which, on the contrary, do not provide support to small business. The issues of concern include the fact that in this latest budget we've seen the government decimate the instant asset write-off and reduce the asset value cap; we've seen it end the loss carry-back scheme; we've seen it abolish the Entrepreneurs Program; and we've seen this government exclude more than 2.5 million small businesses from energy bill relief. There is a very stark contrast between the current government's withering indifference towards small business and the passionate and longstanding commitment on this side of the House to supporting small businesses.

I turn to schedule 5 of the bill, which expands the role of the National Housing Financing and Investment Corporation, or NHFIC, in turn building on the previous government's work to support homeownership remaining within reach of as many ordinary Australians as possible. The change made by the bill before the House today will allow NHFIC to support those Australians who have not held a property interest in Australia in the preceding 10 years. The groups of people who are likely to benefit from this would include divorced women, older women and long-term renters. This measure will support Australians to re-enter the property market and achieve the Australian dream of owning a home. The expansion in eligibility recognises the importance of stable and secure housing in providing a foundation for social and economic wellbeing.

Again, this stands in contrast to what is being done under the present government. For example, a year after the election, this government's much touted Help to Buy Scheme is nowhere to be seen. When the coalition left government, the housing sector was in strong shape. More Australians were getting into homes. More homes were being built. There was a large pipeline of residential construction in place. All of that—sadly—has disappeared under this government. So while the coalition certainly welcomes the measure contained in schedule 5, it is only part of much more that needs to be done. This government, through its inaction, is leaving so many Australians behind.

Let me turn to the contrast between the measures in the bill before the House today and the approach more broadly being taken in the budget the government brought down just a couple of weeks ago. One of the reasons we've supported one of the measures in this bill is that that measure provides some assistance to a group of Australians from dealing with the cost impacts of inflation—that is through the measure that would increase the threshold, in relation to low-income and family Medicare levy thresholds, through the operation of CPI indexation. What is notable is the extent to which more broadly assisting Australians to deal with inflation was absent from the budget when it was brought down.

It's clear from the budget that this Labor government has no plan to help Australians with the cost-of-living crisis so many are facing. On the contrary, in the midst of such a cost-of-living crisis what this Labor government has chosen to do—extraordinarily—is to put fuel on the inflation fire. After less than a year in office, government spending will increase by $185 billion. The fact is, a government cannot spend its way out of a cost-of-living crisis.

What Australians needed and did not receive, in the most recent budget, was a budget that reduced inflation and reined in the spending to help combat the cost-of-living crisis that is facing so many Australians. As a result, it's a budget that makes life harder, not easier, for Australian families, small businesses, self-funded retirees and mortgage holders. Indeed, under this Labor government, a typical Australian family with children will be around $25,000 worse off.

We have a budget that will not build a stronger economy. We have a budget that is not fair for all Australians. We have a budget that fails hardworking Australians—right at the very time when what they needed to see was a plan to address inflation and the cost-of-living crisis that so many Australians are facing. We have a budget that does not contain a plan to address the increase of 1.5 million in net overseas migration over the next five years. There is no plan to deal with infrastructure, to deal with housing, the needs that will follow from this increasing population. On the contrary, this budget cuts spending on infrastructure.

The coalition wants Australians to do well. But at the moment we are being held back by a government with no economic plan for the future. Australians deserve better.

Debate adjourned.