Monday, 17 September 2018
Treasury Laws Amendment (Black Economy Taskforce Measures No. 1) Bill 2018; In Committee
When I was cut off, I was responding to questions from Senator Macdonald and also Senator Paterson. In responding to Senator Macdonald, I pointed out that, in fact, the response to the Black Economy Taskforce was one very important part of the debate in the committee stage of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Black Economy Taskforce Measures No. 1) Bill 2018 and more broadly. It is part of a broader suite of measures which include: expanding the taxable payments reporting system; introducing an illicit tobacco package to target the three main sources of illicit tobacco—smuggling, warehouse leakage and domestic production; modernising business registers and consulting on reforms to the Australian business number system; introducing an economy-wide cash payment limit of $10,000 for payments made to businesses for goods and services from 1 July 2019; removing tax deductibility of noncompliant payments from 1 July 2019, which will mean business will no longer be able to claim a tax deduction for employee wages where the business has failed to withhold; and increasing the integrity of the Commonwealth procurement process by requiring all businesses tendering for Commonwealth government contracts over $4 million to provide a statement from the ATO certifying that they are generally compliant with their tax obligations.
To specifically answer one of the questions that was put forward by Senator Paterson in relation to the amendments that were made in the House of Representatives, this bill does require businesses offering cleaning or courier services to report payments they make to other businesses providing those services. The government, in responding to this, acted on stakeholder advice that it is important to relieve businesses from reporting where the payment to be reported represents only a small part of the overall activity of the business. The amendments exempt a business from reporting where payments to cleaners or couriers are less than 10 per cent of the total GST turnover of the business.
Senator Paterson made some remarks about the overall red tape burden. I obviously agree with much of his contribution, where he pointed to the fact that the former government was very much pointing almost as if to a KPI as to how many pieces of legislation they had passed. Many of those pieces of legislation added a regulatory burden for business, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises. Senator Paterson talked about some of the great work the IPA has done to reduce red tape, which is in line with the government's approach that, yes, there are times when this kind of regulation is very important. I commend this regulation to the Senate. We have listened to those stakeholder concerns but, as Senator Paterson pointed out, we have a long record of looking where we can, where it is appropriate. Where this red tape and this regulation is unnecessary, we have taken the approach that we will do all we can to mitigate it. Yes, there is all sorts of important regulation, including of the black economy, but where we can mitigate it we do. In this case, to answer Senator Paterson's question, we very much listened to stakeholder concerns and came to the conclusion that the amendments to exempt a business from reporting where payments to cleaners or couriers are less than 10 per cent of the total GST turnover of the business is the appropriate balance to be struck.
I'm interested in this issue of cleaners and couriers and the gig economy and the issues that this leads to. Working people in this country are now subjected to probably the worst industrial laws that there have been for some time. Getting paid properly is absolutely essential. Getting to a position where workers have got some rights is absolutely essential. This bill is about ensuring that people are paid properly and people are meeting the requirements of the law. We have indicated earlier that we support an amendment. That amendment has been picked up. The issue that we're facing now is that this government has got so little legislation on hand, so little idea about where they're going that a bill that should now be totally uncontroversial is being debated out, on and on and on, for no other reason than that this government—the government that their own Prime Minister calls the muppets—the muppets are on their feet trying to delay this bill, trying to keep talking on things that don't need to be talked about because both the government and the opposition have agreed that this bill should be passed.
All we have at the moment is what's described as a filibuster. They are not prepared to go on further in legislation. The government would have had amendments here, even to their own bill, if there were still some issues or problems that they wanted to deal with. That is not the case that we have at the moment. What we need to do is try and move things along in this chamber to make sure that when we have got an uncontroversial bill like this bill, we don't have Senator Paterson on his feet trying to just keep this bill running and Senator Seselja bringing back answers that have all been worked out just to try and keep this chamber debating this bill. I use the word 'debating' very loosely, because there is no debate about the bill. The opposition supports the bill. The opposition have an amendment that the government have indicated they support. This bill should be passed. That is the bottom line here.
What we're seeing now is a chaotic government, a government that is now into its third Prime Minister. They didn't learn the lessons from Labor, when we were last in government, that there are huge transactional costs in making a Prime Minister. They have now done it on at least two occasions. Who knows how long this current Prime Minister will last, even if he can get to May next year, when they say they're going to have an election. We really should get to an election in this country. I think what we're witnessing here is exactly the problem you have with a government that's got no direction and no capacity to bring forward policies that are in the interests of working people in this country; a government that is ideologically driven, where the extremists have got control of the government. It doesn't matter who the Prime Minister is; there are groups within the coalition that want to disrupt the government and want to ensure that the government cannot deliver on any issue, especially on issues such as climate change that are so important to our kids and grandkids and the future of this country.
We have a government that are so solely focused internally that they do not have any idea about how they look from outside or what they should be doing to actually deal with the real issues. Every time there's a crisis now, they're in there trying to pre-empt one crisis after another. It was clear yesterday. Even though it was clear that there are huge problems in aged care, they were out yesterday trying to pre-empt a Four Corners program tonight. This is just how lax this government is. This government is hopeless. This government cannot actually deal with the issues effectively. I am of the view that what we need now is for this matter to be dealt with. There is no need to continue any further discussions on this. Everyone's agreed.