Of course, there is no margin for error when it comes to aviation safety. It’s that simple. Another responsibility of the parliament is, of course, the need to avoid unnecessary red tape getting in the way of business activity. Business drives economic growth. It creates jobs and supports our standard of living. Aviation is an important business, particularly in regional communities. What this legislation does is go to the issue of general aviation. There has been a lot of concern from operators of general aviation about the regulatory burden that is placed upon them.
There was a very successful conference held in Wagga Wagga, in the electorate of the Deputy Prime Minister, and I had the opportunity to speak and to engage with the sector there. This legislation that’s before the parliament now arose out of some of the recommendations from that conference. It doesn’t go as far as some would like, but I believe that it is certainly a step forward, balancing the need to protect the travelling public and, of course, the desirability of ensuring that economic activity can occur.
The regulatory burden for an RPT service run by a Qantas or a Virgin or a Rex is very different from the regulatory burden that can be imposed on a small operator or on general aviation. To maintain that business in place is important, particularly in communities such as those in the member for Maranoa’s electorate. It is really important for a range of services that general aviation is able to operate, because many of those routes simply aren’t commercial for the big players.
What we’ve tried to do is to move forward the agenda. This bill before us, as I said, is in my view not perfect, but I’m not going to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good and the practical, which is why I have supported this legislation.
We always take a bipartisan approach to the issue of transport safety. On the issue of the safety of the travelling public, we must work together because these issues should not be partisan in this parliament. The way that we’ve facilitated the bringing on of this bill is an example of that.
Aviation is absolutely crucial in the 21st century. One of the things that we’ve seen in recent times—unlike when I was younger—is that aviation is five times more affordable today than it was 25 years ago. There are very few industries that you can point to where that is the case. The fact is that these days people will regularly go interstate to watch their football team or netball team or other sporting event without it being a big deal. The first time I hopped on a jet plane was to come here as a ministerial staffer. Before then I’d never been on jet plane in my life, and that wasn’t uncommon for people of my generation. The fact is that aviation is now much more available, and the general aviation sector is the backbone of broader aviation. From balloons to microlights, helicopters to business jets, hobbyists to professional pilots, general aviation directly employs more than 3½ thousand Australians. It performs essential services such as charter flights, search and rescue, firefighting, surveying and aerial photography, life-saving aeromedical care and aircraft maintenance.
It’s also an important training ground for the nation’s pilots, and that’s why the former federal Labor government, in which I had the privilege of serving as aviation minister, delivered the first ever aviation white paper. One of its stated objectives was the ‘maintenance of a safe, efficient and innovative general aviation sector’. This document provided a comprehensive, balanced framework, bringing together all aspects of aviation policy into a single, coherent and forward-looking statement. In particular, we introduced more generous accelerated depreciation rates for aircraft as an incentive for owners to upgrade their aircraft. We reduced the number of 24-hour restricted airspace areas from 81 to 15, we committed to the continued operation and growth of secondary capital city airports, we ensured the master plan of secondary airports maintained a strong focus on aviation development, not non-aeronautical uses that could compromise future aviation activities, and we reduced the financial burden of regulation on the sector by restricting increases in CASA regulatory service charges to rises in the consumer price index.
I understand general aviation’s importance to our nation and I’m optimistic about its prospects for expansion. In recent times, a section of the general aviation sector has expressed concern that CASA’s strong focus on safety has created a situation where the sector is over-regulated. There has been a push for legislative recognition in the Civil Aviation Act that CASA should not consider just safety but also the effect of safety regulation on businesses. Last July, we held the summit in Wagga Wagga, which was addressed by Minister McCormack. My point was that safety must always come first and that we must work together. We must recognise that regulators, as well as the minister, face intense pressures in bearing the responsibility for aviation safety, and I certainly felt it when I was the minister. I know from discussions with Minister McCormack that he had considered these matters very carefully before bringing forward this legislation. I have tried to consult with a range of organisations over this legislation and reform.
The bill amends the Civil Aviation Act to ensure that when CASA develops and promulgates aviation safety standards it takes into consideration the impacts and costs affecting the aviation sector. Existing regulatory practice is already based on that approach, but the bill incorporates the existing regulatory practice in the legislation, therefore making it very clear that these issues are important. The bill doesn’t change CASA’s responsibility to make safety its most important consideration, but what it does do is codify in the legislation the expectation of this parliament that CASA, when creating regulation, will take into account the reasonable expectations of those who are regulated.
For some in the aviation sector, this bill won’t go far enough, and I accept that. But it does take an important step in the right direction. It’s a sign of progress in an area where any change must be carefully considered, and that’s why it has been the subject of broad support across the sector. For example, Regional Air Express, the airline that services much of regional Australia said in a statement:
Regional Express (Rex) welcomes the proposed amendment to the Civil Aviation Act 1998 which requires the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to consider the economic and cost impact, in the development and promulgation of aviation safety standards, on individuals, businesses and the community and to take into account the differing risks associated with different aviation sectors.
In closing, I thank the minister for his cooperation on this issue. The job of transport minister is a difficult one. I hope to be able to experience that again the next time this parliament sits. But, in government or opposition, I would say that I want to work with my counterpart when it comes to transport issues and, in particular, when it comes to aviation safety. That’s why we’ve agreed on just one speaker a side in order to fast-track the passage of this legislation so it can get to the Senate. I commend the legislation to the House.
The report says:
The automation and electrification of mass transit … has the potential to make our cities and regions cleaner, greener, more accessible and more liveable.
The member for Bennelong noted, in an accompanying media statement, that ‘achieving this outcome will demand vision and leadership from government’. He continued to say, ‘We need to make the timely provision of the supporting infrastructure for the transition to the fuels of the future.’ That is absolutely correct. Technological change is accelerating in the 21st century, particularly in the area of transport.
The fact is that what we have to do is manage the change that inevitably will occur. We must do what we can in terms of planning, coordination and infrastructure investment, and we’ve seen that this week from one side of politics. We saw that from the Labor Party when we released, on Monday, our plan for managing not only the transition that is occurring around the world to newer fuels but also, in particular, the transition that’s occurring to electric vehicles, with our policy that looks towards having 50 per cent of new vehicle sales be electric vehicles by the year 2030; that looks towards 50 per cent of the government car fleet being electrical vehicles by 2025; that allows for 20 per cent accelerated depreciation in the first year, to encourage the private sector to increase its uptake of electric vehicles; and that looks at creating a fund of $200 million to provide the required infrastructure to have charging available on, in particular, our national highways and major road networks.
The fact is that in a country as vast as ours this technology will be required as a precondition for the increase in the supply of electric vehicles. In Australia we have, at the moment, the lowest uptake of electric vehicles in the OECD. This is problematic, because we know that around the world there is no major car manufacturer looking at new internal-combustion engines. They are all looking at electric vehicles and other fuels of the future—hydrogen and other potential innovations that are occurring.
We know also that Australia is the only nation in the OECD that doesn’t have fuel emission standards. And we know that, as a result of that, Australian motorists are paying an additional $500 per year at the bowser than they would be if there were available a better standard of fuel that was more efficient. We know that it would produce economic benefits as well as environmental benefits. That’s why Labor have said that we’ll support the US standards transitioning. We’ll sit down with the automotive industry, just as we’ll sit down with car dealers and people across the sector, and work through the transition that is required, which is consistent with the report of this important House standing committee, chaired by the member for Bennelong.
Indeed, one concern that’s been raised is road user charges and what will happen. There, of course, I was approached by the government about supporting a bipartisan approach to establishing a committee that would report on road user charges and what the implications were—the fact that we will see a change in the mix of vehicles on our roads over the coming years. It is indeed most unfortunate, the government having gone to the 2016 election with that policy and having announced in 2016 that they’d establish a committee chaired by an eminent person, with both representation nominated by the government and a member nominated by the opposition, that not only has that committee, at the end of this term, not completed its deliberations and reported but it hasn’t actually started. It was never appointed. It says it all about this government’s complete failure to do the basics of government that that hasn’t occurred.
The fact is that, if there is a change of government when the election’s called in coming days, we will see a change. We’ll see the major cities unit re-established to look at a visionary approach to these issues. You’ll see once again a government that’s prepared to look at change and how it occurs in terms of climate and managing the transition—a genuine approach to dealing with the challenge of climate change and how we transition to a clean energy economy. What you’ll see is a government that is committed to managing the transition to the future rather than being fearful of the future.
The report before us includes 17 recommendations. Most of them are just a commonsense road map for what governments have to consider as our transport systems are transformed by the arrival of automated vehicles and other changes that will occur, including the growth of cars powered by electricity and hydrogen. Indeed, recommendation 5 says:
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government facilitate the introduction and uptake of electric vehicles (both BEV and FCEV), especially mass transit vehicles, including through coordination and planning of the development of infrastructure to meet demand; ensuring that refuelling and recharging technology follows defined standards for compatibility and interoperability; and by promoting greater coordination between the transport and energy sectors.
Well, we’re doing just that. The government’s not doing anything, but we’re responding to the recommendations of this report. It is a unanimous report chaired, of course, by the government and with a majority of government members.
A range of recommendations for supporting the sector are in recommendation 13. The fact is that we have a policy to deal with these issues. We have a coalition that is scared of the present and terrified of the future. What we need is a government that is prepared to transition the Australian economy through these issues.
There’s also an important consideration in this report about automated vehicles that does require consideration. There are real implications for employment, for example, and it is to the credit of organisations like the Transport Workers Union that they’ve hosted forums giving consideration to what that means. Indeed, recommendation 12 refers to ‘an audit of Australia’s existing transport communications infrastructure’, and that is certainly something that would be required.
In conclusion, I thank the committee and congratulate them for delivering a thoughtful report in a short time frame. Some of the best work that’s done in this parliament is done in a bipartisan way, looking at the policy challenges and coming up with recommendations. Certainly the government will give proper consideration to these recommendations if there is a change of government. If there’s not, I suspect that what we’ll see is more of the same, which is no action on dealing with the challenges of the future.
It took the Labor Party to build Regional Rail Link. The member for Corangamite used to try and take credit for it. But they opposed it in the House. They opposed the economic stimulus plan. But they were happy to be there at the ribbon-cutting—just like they were happy to be there at the ribbon-cutting for the Redcliffe rail link and Perth’s City Link and to claim Noarlunga to Seaford. It’s just like Gold Coast Light Rail: they went to demos against it! They weren’t just voting against it; they were campaigning against it. Now they just absolutely love it!
The fact is that this budget is big on rhetoric but bad once again on substance. Firstly, they’ve gone through a whole range of Labor’s policies and adopted them: Adelaide’s South Road; Perth’s Metronet; the Rockhampton and Mackay ring roads; Melbourne’s south-eastern suburban roads package; Western Sydney rail. Imitation is the finest form of flattery, I know, but this has reached absurd proportions.
But it’s even worse because, in some cases, what they’ve done is take projects that were cut by the incoming Abbott government, that were fully funded—like the Gladstone Port Access Road and Tasmanian rail freight revitalisation—and cut them; six years later, they’ve put money back and pretended it’s new! And they want people to say thank you.
When you look at traffic congestion, they’ve got this urban congestion fund. But they believe that there’s only urban congestion in coalition marginal seats! I mean, in South Australia, there are 18 road projects; 17 of them are in coalition seats. There are eight projects in Adelaide; seven of them are in the two electorates they hold in Adelaide, Sturt and Boothby—seven out of the eight. So it would appear that urban congestion only occurs in marginal seats where they’re under threat!
Have a look at it around the board. For the ACT, there’s nothing for the next two years—not a single dollar. For New South Wales, they say, there’s $6.1 billion; have a look at what’s in the forwards—$241 million of that. That’s four per cent—$4 in every $100. For the Northern Territory, they promised extra funding—$622 million. What’s in there? It’s a bit better—nine per cent, or $60 million. For Queensland, it’s $2.6 billion, but not a dollar in 2019-20—$313 million of the $2.6 billion over the next four years. So elect them and whoever the leader is next time around if they get re-elected, then elect them again, and you might get some money flowing. For Tasmania, there’s not a dollar in ’19-20, not a dollar in ’20-21—$68 million over the next four years. Western Australia is pretty good. It’s promised extra funding—$1.6 billion. It sounds good, except when you look at the detail: $17.5 million next financial year; $60 million the following financial years. That’s it.
And Victoria they’ve finally realised exists! But the suburban roads package of course they’ve copied. The suburban rail loop they’ve ignored, though it’s actually critical for Regional Rail Link, linking up the 11 tracks, making an enormous difference through Sunshine, and it’s critical for the Airport Rail Link to work. But when you look at Budget Paper No. 2, and you look for the Geelong to Melbourne fast rail, they say they’ll offer $2 billion for a project they have no idea of the cost of because there’s no business case and no plan; they didn’t talk to the Victorian state government before they announced it. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. This is a fail from a government that doesn’t get that infrastructure requires proper planning and a fair dinkum government.
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:42): My—
Government members interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Members on my right! Members on my right!
Mr ALBANESE: It’s coming!
Mr Pyne interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Member for Grayndler—I’m just trying to contain myself at the irony of the Leader of the House complaining about the use of props. But I will enforce the rules. At this stage, I think I’m just going to give the member for Grayndler the benefit of the doubt, that he needs a large photocopier! But we’ll see how he goes.
Mr ALBANESE: Thanks, Mr Speaker. My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and arises out of the answer just given. Can the Prime Minister confirm that in the last few weeks his government did promise faster rail for Geelong, but last night’s budget failed to provide a single cent over the next four years to deliver the project, and that his $200 million promise for Kakadu became Kakadon’t, with not a single new cent in the budget? Doesn’t this just confirm that his government’s budget con job has already fallen apart? (Time expired)
Some in this House may remember that, in June 2017, I introduced a motion in support of the craft brewing industry—supported by many people on both sides of the parliament, it must be said—calling for legislative change to benefit our craft brewers. These people are small businesses. They operate now at the rate of a new one every six days in regional Australia, our cities and suburbs all around. They’re employing locals, providing entertainment for local communities and providing jobs and economic growth. The fact is that the industry was being disadvantaged at the federal level by poor legislation related to the excise rates faced by independent brewers.
I and the member for Hunter held a very effective forum at Wayward Brewing Co. in Camperdown in my electorate, during which we worked out a strategy and a campaign. I’m pleased that that campaign has been successful in delivering one step on the road to reform, because currently the rate of federal excise charged for a keg containing 50 litres of beer is less than the rate charged for a keg containing 30 litres. This does not make sense. In addition to this, the maximum tax rebate a brewery could receive per calendar year is $30,000. This compares, for example, with the wine industry’s producer rebate, or WET, of some $350,000. One of the reforms that has occurred by regulation recently is to increase that to $100,000. That increase means literally every year a small craft brewing company, usually employing perhaps eight, a dozen or 20 people, is able to have $70,000 extra cash flow for their business and are able to employ more local people.
I thank the Prime Minister and the government for adopting Labor policy on this measure. We’ve seen a number of Labor policies adopted tonight, it must be said, and this is just another one. Indeed, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we take that on this side of the House. I thank those people across the parliament who campaigned for this reform, many of whom were on the backbench.
The fact is that this isn’t just a matter of economics. The difference between a 50-litre keg of beer and a 30-litre keg—and the reason the tax treatment disadvantages smaller craft brewers—is that a publican is far less likely to say, ‘Yes, I’ll give your beer a try and put your keg on,’ if they have to have a 50-litre keg rather than a 30-litre keg because they’ll always sell more of the mainstream products—Carlton or VB—than they will of a craft beer. The fact is also that many of the operators have told me it distorts employment. Because a craft brewery is not mechanised—unlike a mechanised, big operation run by a Lion Nathan—if the craft brewery wants to employ someone, the employee has to be able to physically carry a 50-litre keg of beer, which is a real challenge. That distorts the people who can work in the industry, so there are employment implications that are very important as well.
The excise problem is that all beer of any alcohol percentage contained within a keg of over eight litres but below 48 is still taxed at a higher rate at the moment than kegs over 48 litres. This is because of historical overhang. The fact is that craft brewing is a relatively new industry at scale, but what we’re seeing is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s in Grafton or in the Gold Coast or in Marrickville or in Wagga Wagga; right around Australia, this is a growing industry.
The Excise Tariff Amendment (Supporting Craft Brewers) Bill 2019 is legislation that shouldn’t be packaged alongside other bills to pass both houses, as that one has been. The government tried to push their agenda by including the bill with irrelevant legislation which, put simply—if you excuse the pun—doesn’t pass the pub test. It was included with the be Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Bill 2019 that’s about superannuation and allowing an increase in the maximum number of allowable members in self-managed super funds from four to six. It is unfortunate that the government put together bills that aren’t related in an attempt to try to slide this through. Labor referred the bills to a Senate inquiry because of the lack of a relationship between the two pieces of legislation. I’m pleased that the coalition has seen the error of its ways and that the government has ensured that changes to the brewing sector can be finalised without debating unrelated and, frankly, unnecessary changes to self-managed superannuation funds. As a result, this legislation should be able to pass both houses of parliament and come into effect from the beginning of July.
As of June 2018, there were some 547 independent breweries operating in Australia, and the sector continues to grow. The Independent Brewers Association has reported that each brewery employs an average of seven people. That is some 4,000 jobs and counting. Furthermore, independent breweries constitute 97 per cent of all licensed breweries in Australia. What really matters, though, is that 65 per cent of independent breweries are located in rural and regional areas of Australia, such as the Little Rivers Brewing Company in Scottsdale, Tasmania, which I visited with the member for Bass in 2017. This is a brewery that has become the centre of the local community. It’s where people have birthday parties. It’s where people have functions to celebrate anniversaries. Like in many places around Australia, it really is a focal point for that local community.
Nationwide, the craft brewing sector was estimated to be worth some $518 million in 2018, an extraordinary increase of well over $100 million in the space of just two years. This is not to mention the potential for export value, particularly in Asia to our north. In China alone, it is estimated that the market for premium beer will be worth $35 billion in 2020. We have been very successful at exporting wine to the region, and there is no reason why we can’t be just as successful with beer.
As the shadow tourism minister, I can say that craft breweries are an important attraction as well. In my electorate, Dave’s Brewery Tours book out well in advance. They book out some months in advance if you want to go on a tour on the weekend, and that’s not surprising because in my electorate alone you have Willie the Boatman, the manufacturers of Albo Ale, and you have Batch Brewing, Sauce Brewing, Sunday Road Brewing, Wildflower, Young Henrys, Wayward Brewing, The Grifter, Malt Shovel, Akasha, Rocks Brewing, Staves, BlackFont Brewhouse and Stockade. It is, indeed, the craft beer capital of Australia, and I’m very proud. It is to craft beer what the Barossa Valley is to wine. Indeed, this time, instead of a campaign launch for the local election in Grayndler, I’m having a ‘can-paign’ launch on 24 April at Willie the Boatman. Albo Ale is going from long-neck bottles into cans, so we’re combining the two events and having a ‘can-paign’ launch—perhaps, dare I say, Australia’s first ever ‘can-paign’ launch. The fact is that this is an important industry. It’s important for jobs. It’s important for tourism. It’s important for our economy. It’s good that the government has recognised that.
I will conclude with the words of Frank Zappa, who said:
… you can’t be a Real Country unless you have A BEER …
This is indeed a real country. Beer is a part of our cultural history in this country. We should give support to those small businesses that are doing the right thing by their local communities by creating jobs and taking risks to make sure that those businesses are able to grow and thrive into the future. I commend the bill to the House.
Subjects: George Pell; Dividend Imputation Reform.
CHRIS SMITH: Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon, Chris.
SMITH: Now as a Catholic – Question Without Notice please Member for Grayndler – what’s your response to the conviction of George Pell?
ALBANESE: Well my response is that we’ve got to think of the victim here. George Pell has been convicted in a court of law. He of course is appealing so we need to be somewhat careful given that the legal processes haven’t been exhausted. But quite clearly across the board I am very proud to have been part of a government that made what, at the time was I think a gutsy decision to call the Royal Commission into institutional abuse.
ALBANESE: And it wasn’t of course just the Catholic Church. It’s right across the churches; it was institutions like the Boy Scouts and what we heard come through that process was quite horrific. And the institutions need to wake up to themselves and recognise that they have let down their communities and they have caused literally many suicides and trauma for the individuals who were abused. They’ve caused lasting damage to them, to their families and to society.
SMITH: You just wonder whether the Catholic Church has it in them to change something that was left behind by George Pell, which is this Melbourne Response. Because there’s nothing in that, that even looks rarely or anything like an independent body to look after victims.
ALBANESE: Well they have to because they let down people. The principal of the school that I went to is in jail. You know people almost – tragically I’ve discussed this with some of my fellow students who I keep in contact with – we knew some things and it was almost like that we’ve taken for granted, you know, be careful. Don’t you know have a shower when brother (inaudible) is around and just treating it as one of the things. Now that shouldn’t be the case for a young man or young woman for that matter growing up. Let alone people who – you know my mum was a single mum who wanted to ensure that I went to a Catholic school. It was very much a part of her faith. And I must say that the school I went through were very good to me personally. And when we couldn’t afford school fees they said you know just pay what you can and I had some terrific experiences. There was one brother in particular, Brother Simpson who passed away just a couple of years ago; who I think had a big impact on my life because I grew up without a father in my life. He made me captain of the rugby league team in Year 6, in the final year of primary school, and I wasn’t the best player but it meant that, I think that’s the first time I got given a leadership position and I think that had an impact on me.
SMITH: I’ve had positive influences too within the Catholic Church, both through various priests and brothers and I think they’ve been, you know …
ALBANESE: Well they’ve been let down …
SMITH: Wouldn’t they what …
ALBANESE: There are some very good people in the Catholic Church, not just the clergy, but all those volunteers who you know – my mum was very sick for most of her life – I mean, you know my story. But while she could, she went up and cleaned the Church at St Joseph’s Camperdown, whenever she could, you know and put in. And all those people who do fantastic work in the Catholic Church, have been let down by some of the hierarchy and it requires a response from the top down. It requires contrition and it requires structural training and it requires a real response that recognises that the victims of abuse have had to suffer long-term and are entitled to proper compensation because they can’t ever really, of course, be compensated. Some of them have lost things that you can never give back. But I do think that this is a huge wake-up call for the Church and so many Roman Catholics out there will be devastated by the news that came through yesterday.
SMITH: Very true, I couldn’t have said it better. I am with the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. We want to talk about your franking credit policy; we will do that straight after a break. Anthony Albanese on the other side and if you’d like to join the conversation 131 873.
I’ve got Anthony Albanese with me. We are talking about something I’ve been wanting to talk to him about for quite a while, Labor’s franking credit change. One of the biggest concerns for my listeners, whenever I raise it I get a stack of callers on the board and already I’m getting emails sent to me even after mentioning it at the start of the program. Anthony, the main issue here is that my listeners in particular think that you are punishing those Australians who’ve worked very hard to secure their retirement – not a drain on the pension or taxpayers money and they want to know why are you taking away from them, the incentive for people to work hard and plan for their own retirement?
ALBANESE: Well we’re not doing that of course. And of course it is a cost to the taxpayer, it costs the taxpayer currently $6 billion a year, that will grow to $8 billion over the forward estimates and is growing exponentially. When it was introduced by the Howard Government at a time when we had the huge boom and we had money going out the door, you had one-off payments and various measures that cost just $550 million a year. It’s now $6 billion. There is nowhere in the world that gives people – essentially a tax rebate is what it is designed for imputation – it is not a tax rebate if you haven’t paid any tax.
SMITH: But the company that they have invested in has already paid that tax. So they’re being double taxed.
ALBANESE: That’s not right.
SMITH: They are owners of the company, Anthony.
ALBANESE: No one will pay a single cent more tax, that’s the first thing. No one will lose a single cent from their super. No one will lose a single cent from their pension.
SMITH: That’s irrelevant.
ALBANESE: No one will lose a single cent from their share dividends. And the fact is it’s not retrospective. The idea that you get a refund, which is essentially what it is, of your tax when you haven’t paid any tax is not sustainable …
SMITH: But the company you own has paid tax.
ALBANESE: Well you have not paid any tax. And what is happening is that this is growing to the point whereby it simply is not sustainable.
SMITH: Okay. I understand that …
ALBANESE: It costs the Budget more than we give to every public school in the country.
SMITH: But you haven’t done a calculation on the loss of investor’s money that will now stop being poured into companies around the country. Because retirees won’t do this, they won’t go there anymore they’ll go: ‘Hang on, the rules have changed I’m getting out of there’.
ALBANESE: Because what’s happening at the moment, because there is this huge bonus, is that it’s been growing exponentially. And that’s why you’ve seen this flood in, because people are getting, as I said, a refund when they haven’t paid any tax.
SMITH: Was this your idea?
ALBANESE: No, it’s not my call.
SMITH: So you’re trying to sell it. The Government says over 80 per cent of those affected have a taxable income of less than $37,000. These are your people.
ALBANESE: Eighty per cent of the benefit, 80 percent of that $6 billion, accrues to the wealthiest 20 per cent of retirees. And the top 1 percent of self-managed super funds receive a cash refund on average of $83,000. Now this is an amount at a time when the median income in Australia is $57,000. This huge, huge cash payment …
SMITH: I’m hearing you. The self-managed superannuation sector has grown exponentially. Sixty-five per cent over the last five years to more than $700 billion. That’s going to come crashing down, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: No, it’s not.
SMITH: And people will go on the pension.
ALBANESE: People are getting payments now through this system, Chris.
SMITH: But people are also relying on …
ALBANESE: People are getting payments, which is – which the average worker out there pays their taxes, their PAYE tax – that goes into consolidated revenue. And $6 billion of it is going out, not to pay for education, not to pay for hospitals, not to build infrastructure, but to people to get refunds for tax that they haven’t paid.
SMITH: Okay. But logically, if this is no longer a chance to live off the money you get from franking credits, if this is no longer an income stream for a lot of retirees. They will simply calculate their retirement so they take part pension and live off the rest of their investments. And so therefore this will be a drain on the welfare budget. Surely that makes logical sense?
ALBANESE: No. What makes sense is that a system which is not used anywhere else in the world, anywhere, not in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Japan. Nowhere in the world does this occur. And there’s a reason for that. If you are one off, if you’re one out, then there’s usually a reason. And that’s why in 1987 when I was working in the Federal Government as an Adviser when Bob Hawke and Paul Keating introduced it, the imputation system, they certainly didn’t allow for a payment to be made if tax hadn’t been paid.
SMITH: Okay, all right. Let’s go to a few callers. Barry’s got a really good question. It was my next question, Barry, give it to Anthony Albanese.
CALLER: How are you Chris, how are you Anthony?
ALBANESE: G’day. I’m good, Barry.
CALLER: Why is the franking credit still going to be allowed in union-based superannuation funds and the self-funded can’t keep that?
ALBANESE: Well there is a different system in terms of – the same as for charities that are tax exempt they will be permitted as well – in terms of industry super funds. That doesn’t impact on people’s income in terms of it’s a different system.
SMITH: But you don’t know that. There could be members of certain unions who have an Industry Super Fund who rely on franking credits to live, you know, week by week as do investors in other super funds, non-industry super funds. Why wouldn’t industry super funds be affected the same way?
ALBANESE: Because there’s a different system. The self-managed super funds by definition are about individuals who have established their own nest egg, who make their own decisions about where their investment goes …
SMITH: Or are we just protecting union members?
ALBANESE: Not at all. What we’re doing, we have made sure for example that every pensioner or allowance with individual shareholdings will be able to benefit still. So whether it’s an Age Pension or Disability Support Pension or carer payment or parenting payment – Newstart – they will still be allowed. Any self-managed super funds as long as there is one person with, at least one, with a government pension or allowance, they’ll be exempt from the changes as well.
SMITH: But in some cases they would be used in the same way as investors use non industry super funds. That was the point that Barry was making. Chris, go ahead, Anthony Albanese is listening.
CALLER: Yeah my dad worked hard all his life, became a self-funded retiree and then worked out what he had to do to become a pensioner so that you guys couldn’t access his franking credits. And he did it – sorry to be a bit rude – he said: ‘When comrade Bowen gets in at least he can’t touch my money’.
SMITH: So in some ways it is retrospective. He had planned based on the current laws how he was going to live through his retirement and now the goalposts have changed.
ALBANESE: Well it’s not retrospective, Chris, we’ve made it very clear. Unlike …
SMITH: It’s indirectly retrospective.
ALBANESE: Can you recall Tony Abbott when he was Opposition Leader or any other opposition leader in history putting out policies including tax changes well in advance of an election? Saying what date …
SMITH: Oh it’s gutsy, it’s gutsy stuff. But you’ve copped a criticism, heaps of criticism over it.
ALBANESE: Well it’s a tough decision. But tough decisions have got to be made if we’re going to live within our means. If we’re going to be able to fund health and education and infrastructure and the last time we were in government, what we did was have the largest ever pension increase in Australia’s history. And have a look at the current mob; in their 2014 Budget one of the things they did of course they tried to cut pension indexation, that would have meant an $80 a week cut over 10 years. $23 billion that was worth, that they tried to put in. In the 2014 budget they cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions. In the 2014 Budget they also axed the $900 Senior’s Supplement to self-funded retirees.
SMITH: And it’s good to see the Labor Party realising the importance of a streamlined economy, Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: Well we have said across a range of measures not just what we would invest in health and education and infrastructure. We’ve said where the money would come from. And don’t forget that in 2015 the Libs did a deal with the Greens which cut the pension to 370,000 pensioners by changing the Pension Assets Test. No advance notice of that. That was the Libs in their 2015 Budget; the Greens went along with it. And then in 2016 they tried to cut the pension to another 190,000 pensioners by trying to limit their overseas travel. In areas like mine, where a lot of hard-working people of Greek, or Italian origin, or Portuguese, travel back over the summer and spend some time there. They tried to make changes that would have impacted 190,000 of them.
SMITH: But once again it’s a policy bringing those back to the pack. In other words, those that have been successful, moderately successful. They’ve been brought back to the pack against – so much for aspiration – so much for being able to achieve something. Terry is an accountant. He’s got a question for you. Go ahead, Terry.
CALLER: Anthony I’m a little taken back by your dodge of the question, of the earlier question, as to why the union funds were allowed to still get the credit. Because you clearly don’t understand your own policy. As long as you, even a self-managed fund even if they had somebody who was able to use the credits, they would still get it. It’s only somebody who’s in retirement that doesn’t get the credits. So if any fund …
ALBANESE: If you’re working, you’re paying tax.
CALLER: No. As long as there’s somebody in the fund – so if it’s a union fund and there are members who are paying tax in their super fund then you get the credits. It’s a complete snow job on people who are in retirement. It doesn’t matter – anybody can use the credits and this nonsense about, only any other country that we’re the only country in the world …
ALBANESE: Which other one does it, mate? You’re the accountant.
CALLER: Let me speak. If you take somebody like America, you take somebody like Newscorp, they don’t pay dividends. The reason they don’t pay dividends is because there’s no point because there’s double taxation. The companies keep the funds in their pool and you get your return from an increase.
SMITH: You can’t compare apples with oranges, is his point.
ALBANESE: Sir, with respect, that is a complete nonsense to suggest that international companies never pay dividends. I’m sorry, but that is just wrong.
CALLER: Do the taxation on it. If you don’t have imputation credits you pay double tax.
ALBANESE: I understand that. Which is why Labour introduced, in 1987, that system. But to argue that international companies don’t give dividends is just wrong. You’re just wrong.
CALLER: Capital growth is all I will say.
SMITH: Terry, repeat what you were about to say.
ALBANESE: You can’t point to another country in the world where you get refunds on your tax that you haven’t paid.
CALLER: So you’re happy with double taxation is what you’re saying? No, forget that …
ALBANESE: It’s a reasonable question. You said it wasn’t right, I am saying …
CALLER: Unions can claim it.
ALBANESE: I am saying to you, which country in the world has this system?
SMITH: Can I just go back to this union fun stuff. Forget about the fact that the union is regarded on the same category as a charity. Those who use their union superannuation investment in franking credits can use it the same way as someone who’s not in a super fund. That’s your point Terry, isn’t it?
CALLER: That’s the thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s union or not, as long as some funds can use it, it doesn’t matter whether it’s union or not. Some funds are allowed to use it, other funds aren’t.
SMITH: All right, Terry, I want to move on. Are you able to spend another 10 minutes with me, Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: I can indeed. I’ll be late for my next thing, but it will be okay. Hopefully my office are listening.
WEDNESDAY, 27 FEBRUARY, 2019
Future Drought Fund Bill 2018, Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2018 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 21 February 2019
What you are doing, in supporting this legislation, is taking over $3 billion of infrastructure investment away. That is what you are doing. You are undermining Infrastructure Australia through the abolition of the Building Australia Fund. There is no link between the Building Australia Fund and drought resilience, just like there was no link when they tried to abolish the Building Australia Fund to fund the NDIS or to fund the privatisation of assets through the recycling scheme. This mob have hated the Building Australia Fund because it’s not a slush fund. It has to be used for infrastructure that’s on the priority list.
I say to the honourable members who have approached me about infrastructure commitments that you’ve just reduced the budget by $3 billion on infrastructure if we are elected or if they are elected, for that matter. That is what you are doing with this legislation. Bear that in mind next time there’s a request, because it’s very clear that this is a con by the government. There is no linkage between the drought fund and infrastructure except that they both have National Party ministers. That’s all it is. Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, is so weak. He couldn’t stand up to this bloke. He has allowed him to rip $3 billion out of the infrastructure investment that is there, that is protected and that is for priority projects.
The New South Wales Greens, state and federal, are more focused on themselves than they are on removing right-wing Liberal governments. As I’ve said many times, former Leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, was a man of integrity. I had differences with him, but he left parliament with just about everybody’s respect. That high regard, of course, has never been shared by the New South Wales Greens, who have undertaken an ongoing war against Bob Brown and against all moderates and environmentalists within their own party.
An ever-increasing number of Greens party members are blowing the whistle on their own party. These are some of the things that they’ve said—firstly, Bob Brown himself, after the last federal election:
I’ve been approached in the streets in Sydney by people saying, ‘I’m a Green but I’m not going to vote for the candidates you’ve put up here in Sydney.
New South Wales MP, Cate Faehrmann, a former chief of staff to Senator Di Natale, said:
It is my firm belief that the party in NSW has been infiltrated by destructive extreme left forces who will stop at nothing …
In an open letter, she went on to say:
Honesty, integrity, due process and natural justice – these are fundamental values that any voter should expect in a political party … Currently the NSW Greens cannot claim to be meeting these most basic tests.
Of course, it was reported recently that there were detailed discussions involving Mr Brown, Ms Faehrmann and fellow New South Wales MP, Justin Field, about forming a split-away party. And, announcing his split from the Greens party in December, Jeremy Buckingham said:
… the fact is that the New South Wales Greens as an organisation is corrupt and rotten.
Later, he went on to say: ‘In New South Wales, what we actually have is a clandestine, organised program by socialist organisations to take over the NSW Greens. It’s been successful, and to move our policy platform to one of pure socialism, pure Marxism.’
When he was asked by Hamish Macdonald what he would say to people who were considering voting for the Greens party at the upcoming federal election, he said this: ‘I would say to them, especially in NSW, to take a good hard look … the Greens organisation in NSW has departed from the project that Bob Brown started all those years ago.’ And, of course, he has recently criticised his replacement on the New South Wales Greens upper house ticket—Allen & Overy corporate lawyer, Abigail Boyd, who, ironically, has worked in the interests of a number of companies at odds with the Greens party platform. He said:
The Greens have lost their focus on the climate and environment. They’ve been hijacked by phonies who see it as a path to power if they just mouth the correct ideology, regardless of how hypocritical it may be. It’s pathetic and sad to see the Greens running a candidate whose company was working for Adani, Santos, Origin and Gina Rinehart.
It’s an extraordinary proposition.’
Long-term staffer of Cate Faehrmann, James Gough, said:
While the global Green movement represents me and my political philosophy, the NSW Greens no longer do.
And, to be fair, the triumphant Left renewal faction, aligned with Lee Rhiannon, doesn’t shy away from its objectives. This is what it says that people who join up with Lee Rhiannon have to sign up to:
4. That a rejection of class antagonism, and capitalism, also depends on a rejection of the state’s legitimacy and the right of it, and its apparatuses, to impose oppression upon the working class and oppressed people in order to liberate the working class and all oppressed people. We further rejected state mediated oppression in all of its forms, and recognise that violent apparatuses like the police do not share an interest with the working class.
At the last election, Jim Casey, my opponent, said this:
I would prefer to see Tony Abbott returned as prime minister with a Labor movement that is growing, with an anti-war movement that was disrupting things in the streets …
He went on to say:
I’d prefer to see Abbott as the prime minister in that environment than Bill Shorten as prime minister without it.
The fact is that they have preselected him again to run for Grayndler. He went so well last time that they’ve backed him and have selected him again! The New South Wales Greens are out of touch with mainstream environmentalists.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): I thank the member for that very informative contribution.
Future Drought Fund Bill 2018, Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2018 – Second Reading – Wednesday, 20 February 2019
I rise to speak on the Future Drought Fund Bill 2018. Let me begin by saying that Labor certainly supports government action to help farmers make their operations more resilient in the face of drought. Drought has been a reality of life in this nation for a very long time. Given the harsh nature of our environment in this part of the world, it is a tribute to the tenacity and, indeed, the skill of our farmers that they have been so successful. They are tough, hardworking and efficient. Their task is being made even more difficult by climate change, which the experts agree is leading to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. We see the evidence of this on our TV screens with dispiriting regularity. We see honest people struggling hard against the elements and facing crises on an increasingly regular basis.
It’s not all about climate change, but climate change is a factor. Indeed, after years of denial, even some of those opposite accept the existence of climate change, having been dragged to reality by groups like the National Farmers’ Federation in my home state of New South Wales. And it certainly does make sense for the Australian government to work with our agricultural sector on drought resilience. We must assist our producers, who do so much for our nation. However, we must also think carefully about how we fund this important work.
The bill before us is inadequate. It asks us to create the Future Drought Fund for that purpose. Interest from the fund would be used to deliver up to $100 million a year in project grants from 2020-2021. But it wouldn’t be established by the government making an appropriation from government funds in the normal way in which it would for a purpose that it viewed to be valuable on its merits. It would be created by abolishing the existing Building Australia Fund. This was created by the former Labor government as one of our first pieces of legislation after we were sworn in on 2 December 2007 in legislation that I introduced to this chamber. The Building Australia Fund is a vital part of the Infrastructure Australia framework, because it can only be used for the purpose of projects that have been approved by Infrastructure Australia and put on the priority list.
Now, when it comes to funding infrastructure, this government regards integrity and transparency with horror. This is the third attempt to abolish the Building Australia Fund. First, we were told this was a necessary component of the asset recycling scheme, which the government set up to provide state governments with incentives to privatise public assets. It failed in the Senate. The second occasion was with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, something not linked to infrastructure at all. We were told that we needed to transfer the money from the Building Australia Fund across to the NDIS if we were going to fund disability services. Now we’re being told that, in order to fund drought resilience measures by farmers, we need to abolish the Building Australia Fund. It’s absurd. There’s no link between the two things.
We have committed the same amount of money as the government for a drought fund in the same time frame. The difference is that our money will be real. It doesn’t have to be taken from somewhere else with no relationship whatsoever. I was trying to figure out what the relationship between the two issues—the Building Australia Fund and the Future Drought Fund—is. The link is that they’re both run by the National Party, in terms of the portfolio. Quite clearly, what’s happened in the internal processes is that Minister Littleproud hasn’t been able to secure support for the Future Drought Fund in terms of additional funding. So within the National Party they have just had to transfer some money across from one fund to another—from Mr McCormack’s responsibilities as the infrastructure minister to Minister Littleproud’s responsibility as agriculture minister. That’s absurd! What next? Take agriculture funding to fund a new airport? This is not the way to do good public policy.
We could have a consensus in this parliament across both sides about the outcomes and the process if the government just had a bit of common sense and said, ‘Well, we’ll create a future drought fund, we’ll bring in legislation, it will be for that purpose and it will consist of $100 million every year from 2021,’ and we’d all agree. It would take 10 minutes and it could be in place. We could even talk about the time frame and maybe bring it forward. But, instead, we have this obsession with getting rid of the Building Australia Fund, simply because the National Party can’t use it as a slush fund for whatever projects they want in regional—or marginal, should I say—electorates.
This government is characterised, as we saw in today’s question time and in the suspension of standing orders resolution, by a misuse of taxpayers’ funds. And what they want now is to create a future drought fund that has no guidelines around it. Once again, instead of having some rigour about the use of taxpayers’ funds, we have the National Party back to its old games. Remember the Area Consultative Committees? And the old regional rorts program? On this basis there’s no reason to think that the National Party wouldn’t be about providing selective assistance to friends and mates rather than on the basis of the interests of farmers, the interests of making a difference and the interests of need.
That’s the problem with this. Based upon expert advice we’ll look to fund the adoption of new, efficient technology on farm infrastructure projects, such as better water storage, better natural resource management for farms and projects to improve soil management and to build resilience to drought, floods and the changing climate. Within 60 days of taking office we would create a panel of guardians to establish guidelines for the program. We’d include the farmer organisations in that process. The panel would include experts in water, soil and environmental science, and an economist, as well as representatives of the farming sector, local government and the Council of Australian Governments. It would report to the Minister for Agriculture and would be asked to provide a detailed plan concerning the fund within 12 months, if we’re successful. Given that the fund doesn’t come into operation until 2020-21, that is a practical, sensible suggestion. Establish a rigorous process so that the money wouldn’t be invested on political whims but on the genuine resilience projects that will make a real difference.
The government’s proposal doesn’t see any money flow until the financial year 2020-21. Our project would deliver projects as soon as the panel that I just mentioned finalised their arrangements, within 12 months of becoming government. So let’s be very clear: Labor guarantees the same level of funding as the government, delivered sooner to fund projects chosen on the basis of genuine expert advice. That is a much better approach than eliminating the Building Australia Fund, an obsession for those opposite. As part of their attack on Infrastructure Australia, for most of the term since the change of office in 2013, for most of the last 5½ years, Infrastructure Australia hasn’t had a CEO. They’ve had acting CEOs for most of that time. The major cities units, which were part of Infrastructure Australia, were abolished.
The Building Australia Fund was used for great projects like the Regional Rail Link, the biggest single federal investment in public transport infrastructure on record, in our history. It also delivered many projects of direct benefit to the agricultural sector. Take the Ipswich Motorway—in the shadow minister for immigration’s area—which is making an enormous difference to the sector to the west of Brisbane, and making an incredible difference in the Lockyer Valley and other areas. There’s also the Hunter Expressway, up to that pristine prime land up in the plains of New England and providing that linkage that’s there. The reason those projects had high benefit-cost ratios was the freight that goes on those roads—much of it agricultural produce. These projects delivered real change by boosting productivity and helping farmers get their products to market, both domestic and internationally, more quickly.
The government talks about its commitment to agricultural producers but the fact is that its record when it comes to infrastructure investment which will benefit the regions is very poor indeed, when you look at the underspends that are there. The promised spending in budgets on the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program was $145 million over recent years but the actual final budget outcome shows that just $56 million was expended. Sixty-one per cent of the funding was not used—underspent. For the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, $292 million was promised but the actual delivered was $157 million—a 46 per cent underspend. For the Northern Australia Roads Program, the government committed in budgets, on budget night, $520 million but only $288 million was actually invested—a 44 per cent reduction. With the Bridges Renewal Program—so important to lift productivity in agricultural sectors to allow for goods to get to market—again, only $220 million of the $375 million that was committed in budgets was actually spent, which was a 41 per cent reduction.
Contrast that with what we did in government: creating the Regional Development Australia program; creating the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program; committing to major road and rail infrastructure, including on the Bruce and Pacific highways; rebuilding one-third of the interstate rail freight network, making an enormous difference; and making the first serious investments in the Inland Rail project.
So we think that the government has got the detail of this wrong. We need proper guidelines and rigour, but we also need proper funding for it, because our farmers deserve that proper funding on its merits—not taking it from somewhere else, not taking it from Peter to pay Paul, but making sure that we actually deliver more investment.
The fact is: this desperate Prime Minister runs a part-time parliament that has conflicts right along the frontbench and the backbench. (Time expired)