Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Speech in Parliament: Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2015 Measures No. 3) Bill 2015 - 17 June 2015

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (17:20): As always, I welcome the opportunity to follow the shadow Assistant Treasurer. I am chuffed that he has decided to stay for my contribution. It has rather made my day. He has asked a number of questions, which I will come to in a second. I am more than happy to answer the questions that continue to confound him. I would like him to end this day without any questions in his mind. The member for Fraser said a lot of things, but what he did not say revealed a lot as well. What he did not say was how much the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2015 Measures No. 3) Bill 2015 was saving the forward estimates and the reason why the two schedules in this bill have been moved.

He has been agonising, obviously, for almost a month on why the government has introduced this bill. It has been troubling him and he is desperate for a explanation, so I am going to do something unusual with the member for Fraser: I am going to point him to a secret document which explains why the government has moved this bill. Member for Fraser, that secret document is in fact the Assistant Treasurer's second reading speech. That is the person you shadow. You only need to look back to 27 May—and already, unfortunately, we have lost the shadow minister, after a minute and a half. That is a record. But I suspect he well knows this, as he moves up into the chamber to have some conversation with a colleague of mine. As the Assistant Treasurer pointed out in the first few lines of the second reading speech of 27 May, these measures were necessary as part of the suite of difficult measures to put our budget on a more sustainable basis. Here is what he said:

This bill is a further step towards repairing the budget and providing taxpayers with value for money from the government.

In the fifth paragraph of that speech, he said:

The measures in this bill will return around $826 million to the budget over the forward estimates …

Now, $826 million is not a figure you heard from the member for Fraser. He was very quick to point out that he and his colleagues are going to oppose this bill, but in doing so they are opposing $826 million of improvement to the very difficult budget situation that they left this country. Not only is the member for Fraser quite happy to be a fiscal failure; he is apparently happy to be a fiscal sleepwalker as well—seeing a budget deficit that has grown and grown with our net debt at record levels but opposing every single measure to fix it. And he comes into this place and accuses the government of not having a reason for having to take these decisions when that reason is clearly articulated in the minister's second reading speech back almost a month ago.

I know the member for Fraser well. I have known him for a few years now. There are many things you can say about the member for Fraser. But I am not going to say he is unintelligent; he is not. And I am not going to say he does not work hard. He has read this speech. He reads everything there is to read. He has read it and he knows. What he did today was get up and give no explanation as to how Labor would repair the budget, no alternative at all, other than to say 'no' to repairing the budget and to affirm again that Labor are going to reintroduce the carbon tax, which was another interesting aspect of his contribution.

The point he did get right is that there are two schedules. As the Assistant Treasurer, the member for Kooyong, pointed out in the introduction, the seafarer's tax offset has not met its policy intent. That will save around $12 million over the forward estimates. It affects about five companies. Compared to the amount originally put in the forward estimates by those opposite, it is a much lower amount. Yes, the R&D tax schedule will save around $810 million over the forward estimates. It is all clearly there—not just in the bill; in the minister's second reading speech.

In terms of the rest of his contribution on industry and science, I would point him to the many other initiatives that this government have unveiled through Minister Macfarlane to support innovation and enterprise in so many ways: the Industry Growth Centres initiative, the Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Program, the single business service, the growth fund boosting the commercial returns from research—and many others as well that have been encompassed in the minister's major policy announcements over recent months.

He talked about start-ups again without mentioning the critical importance of getting the tax settings right on employee share ownership. That is something this government has done after six long years from when Labor effectively killed employee share ownership for start-ups. That is something this government has done that has been welcomed by the start-up sector.

Some of those opposite have been up-front and candid enough to admit that Labor botched it terribly and, after they wrecked the employee share landscape, ignored any attempt by the industry to get them to revisit it. For six long years we had the start-up sector starved of the opportunity of employee share ownership. Some of those opposite such as the member for Chifley in this place, in an interjection to me, was candid enough to say, 'Labor got it wrong.' The member for Chifley was candid enough to say that. It is obvious they got it wrong. He said it publicly, but you will not hear it from the shadow assistant Treasurer. You will not hear it from him at all in any of these debates. If he wants to be taken seriously, he should at least acknowledge Labor's failures, at least acknowledge our repair of them and at least acknowledge the fiscal task this nation confronts.

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