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29 May 2019

Second reading debate: State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2019

I rise to speak on the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2019, and at the outset I wish to state that I support the reasoned amendment put forward by the shadow Treasurer. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Duties Act 2000, the Land Tax Act 2005, the Payroll Tax 2007 and the Valuation of Land Act 1960.

The bill basically introduces a suite of taxation changes. I will just outline a few. It expands the coverage of corporate reconstruction duty provisions and replaces exemptions with a concession; introduces a land duty transfer concession for commercial and industrial properties in regional Victoria and supports the imposition of duty on arrangements where fixtures are required independently from the underlying land; increases the foreign purchaser additional duty rate from 7 per cent to 8 per cent; and increases the motor vehicle duty rate for vehicles valued at over $100 000.

So you are getting the picture. Basically what we are seeing here is a very broken promise compared with what we heard on the eve of the 2014 election on Channel 7 with Peter Mitchell by the now Premier who promised no new taxes. On that night Peter Mitchell asked the Premier-to-be, ‘Do you promise Victorians here tonight that you will not increase taxes or introduce any new taxes?’, and the now Premier responded, ‘I make that promise, Peter, to every single Victorian’. So in addition to promising no more taxes in the first term, the first thing we see in the government’s second term is more taxes. The Andrews Labor government has once again broken the promise that he made on the eve of the election in 2014. He has now broken that promise 20 times.

If we look at this bill, this bill is demonstrating that the Labor budget that we have before us this week is a budget of higher taxes and more than a doubling of debt: taxes up again, projects blowing out, debt up again. What this government does not seem to understand is that efficiencies are seeming to not even be looked for. It is just ‘We blow it out and then we come after the taxpayer to fix the problem we have created’, because they cannot manage money.

Economic growth is slowing and the cost of living is rising. During a time where they are the parameters we are working within we see a government going after the taxpayer for more money. Victoria is now the highest-taxing state in Australia. Taxes are up 36 per cent under the Andrews Labor government, raking in an additional $24.4 billion since being elected. Land taxes have more than doubled under the Andrews government. Just this week I was contacted by a constituent telling me about a bicycle business that is closing because of the land tax that they have been slugged with. This constituent was so concerned about this family business that just cannot pay the bill and will be closing that business. So what we are seeing is businesses really struggling under this government.

Today I rang a couple of car dealers and said, ‘What does this mean for you, the luxury tax change that you have seen?’. They described to me that in one case they are going to have to go back to get another $2500 from a family, after talking to them and closing a deal on the weekend. One dealer told me that the tax on the Toyota deal will increase to $16 000. I said, ‘Describe to me the people we’re talking about’. He said, ‘Well, a husband and wife who both work very hard. They have two kids—not kids in private school. They don’t own a holiday house, and this is what they have been saving for because this is what they are prioritising’. When we hear the Treasurer say—as he did at a luncheon yesterday—that anybody who saves for 20 years for a car needs to get a life, well, he should tell that to the family for whom that car is a priority to ensure their safety on country roads which are falling apart and which have had a $220 million cut in the budget because—

Ms Green interjected.

Ms BRITNELL: Yes, they could get a HiLux, but it is their choice, and if that is what they saved for, member for Yan Yean—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for South-West Coast should address her remarks through the Chair.

Ms BRITNELL: Sorry, Deputy Speaker. The dealer then told me about the number of retirees who have saved for many years. I am sorry, but if it takes 20 years, I really find what the Treasurer said quite insulting. When you work for 20 years, you are aiming to retire and your priority is to actually buy that car so you feel safe on our roads. You want to tow that caravan and spend some years with your wife or your husband, whoever—you may want to travel around with your grey nomad friends perhaps—well, that is great. That is what Australians love to do. For the Treasurer to stand at a luncheon yesterday and throw insults like that at the community who work hard and who make that their choice was nothing short of arrogance.

I also see in the bill that regional payroll tax has been reduced. Of course we support cuts to payroll tax. That was actually our policy. I was at the announcement that was made in the South-West Coast electorate when we said that we would actually cut it to 1 per cent, so this bill does not do what we planned to do. We were going to make sure it went straight down to 1 per cent on 1 July, just a month and a bit away. But no, this government is going to drag it out over time, slowly reducing it.

From a business perspective it is becoming harder and harder to make an economic margin in this state and be able to survive. The two dealers that I spoke with this morning said to me that there are six dealerships in that retail sector of car dealing in Warrnambool and that the margins in those businesses are so tight that the employment of 250 people is very much at risk, as are all the flow-on effects those businesses have in the community—mechanics and whatnot. We are really pushing them to the brink, and that is what they said. This is not only about raising taxes on luxury cars. It reduces the amount of sales. One of them said to me it could reduce it by half. That tells me that that means jobs will go, and that will mean a real challenge for western Victoria.

The Minister for Mental Health asked during the member for Caulfield’s speech what it means when the Prime Minister says, ‘If you have a go, you get a go’. This is what it does mean. I know both of these dealers very, very well. They have grown up in family businesses and worked very hard to keep those businesses viable. We should be rewarding people who are working hard, who are providing jobs and who are helping our economy, because money has got to come from somewhere. It does not just keep coming out of nowhere. This government thinks you can just pull it out of taxpayers pockets. Those pockets are getting very, very bare. The cost of living is causing all of us to struggle—with the cost of power and the pressure of just being able to pay your power bill on time. Whilst I absolutely support the reduction in payroll tax, I would have liked to see it match our commitment, but that is not to be.

Another question is: why is this bill being rushed through today? Is it because the government wants to cover up the fact that the budget is so bad and they want to change the subject? I am sorry, but Victorians are seeing straight through this. They are absolutely onto this. They have seen in this budget and this bill a rise in gold tax, a rise in foreign land taxes, a rise in luxury car tax—a rise in taxes generally—when we were told there would absolutely be no new taxes. Stop justifying that; it is not reasonable. That is 20 broken promises, and I do not understand why. You cannot get away with it forever. You cannot keep saying, ‘We’re not doing something’, and then blatantly go out and just lie—and that is what it is. If you say you are not going to do something and then you do it, well, you have just told a lie. It is as simple as that. I will be supporting the reasoned amendment today because I am supporting our regions.