Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Treasury Laws Amendment (Supporting Australian Farmers) Bill 2018; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
The Government stands shoulder to shoulder with our farmers, to ensure they can survive against the severe and widespread drought that has affected so many.
Our farmers are the backbone of the nation, with farming families providing the produce all Australians rely on to feed our families. For this reason, the Government has an important role to play in backing our farmers in difficult times, and this Government is committed to doing what we can to help drought affected farming families across Australia.
The Government can't make it rain. But we can ensure that farming families and their communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet.
On 19 June 2018, the Government extended the availability of the Farm Household Allowance from three to four years, effective from 1 August 2018.
On 5 August 2018, the Government announced a $190 million package of immediate additional financial support to help farming families and their communities fight one of the worst droughts of the past century. The package included further significant changes to the existing Farm Household Allowance to provide two lump sum supplementary payments worth up to $12,000 for eligible couples and $7,600 for singles. Also included were changes to the assets test to allow thousands more farmers to access support.
These changes provide many farming families what they sorely lack during drought – cash income. This income helps put food on the table and cover basic expenses such as bills and school fees, and will flow through to businesses in country towns doing it tough.
The package also included increased funding for mental health support, rural financial counselling and small grants for rural and regional not-for-profit community groups. The package took total support provided by the Commonwealth Government to drought-affected households and communities to more than $576 million.
At the same time, the Government announced that longer-term measures to improve the resilience of rural communities to handle drought conditions were being developed across Government in response to the issues raised with the then Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources during their listening tour of New South Wales and Queensland in early June 2018.
On 19 August 2018, the Government announced the appointment of Major General Stephen Day, DSC, AM, as the National Drought Coordinator. The Government also announced the further expansion of direct assistance and concessional loans to aid drought-affected farmers, increasing total assistance to $1.8 billion, including:
This Bill gives effect to the tax announcement. It amends the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 to allow primary producers to immediately deduct the cost of fodder storage assets, first used or installed ready for use from 19 August 2018.
Currently, primary producers can deduct the value of fodder storage assets over three years under existing accelerated depreciation arrangements.
Providing an immediate deduction for fodder storage assets will make it easier for primary producers to stockpile fodder.
It will also reduce compliance costs as primary producers will no longer have to track the depreciation of fodder storage assets for more than one year for tax purposes.
This initiative complements the Government's $20,000 instant asset write-off for eligible small businesses, which we are extending to 30 June 2019.
I call on all Parliamentarians to give this Bill their full support so that we can provide farmers with faster tax relief on fodder storage assets, assisting them to better drought-proof their properties.
We will continue to engage with farmers to ensure our drought assistance measures meet their needs.
Full details of the initiative are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.