State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2018

Mr J. BULL (Sunbury) (18:00:48) — I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2018. This of course goes to the heart of the budget, and for the past three years those on this side of the house have been focused on better schools, new and improved roads, higher quality and more accessible health care, better public transport, more jobs and a fairer, stronger Victoria.

What we know, Acting Speaker Kilkenny, and I listened closely to your contribution, is that we are a fast-growing state. We know that Victoria’s population was 6.36 million people in September 2017 and the population of Greater Melbourne at the same time was 4.7 million people. We know of course that we are growing quickly, with an additional 150 000 people calling Victoria home from September 2016 to September 2017. This of course represents a growth rate of 2.4 per cent, which is the highest of all states and territories, and we know that what comes with this is a drive and demand for new jobs, new roads and new schools, and we know that with 100 000 new Victorians each and every year we need to invest in the infrastructure that is able to support that.

We know as a government that much of this growth occurs in our growth corridors, those in the north, those in the west and those in the east, but we also want to ensure that new Victorians are moving into our wonderful regions and rural towns right across Victoria. I have had the opportunity as chair of the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee to spend time in a number of these regions across Victoria. What has been very clear is that the people in these areas, people in regions and in country Victoria, are warm-hearted people who work hard, love their local communities and are very engaged. These are some of our best Victorians. But what is crucial and critical is that the government creates those policy settings that encourage and help our regions and towns to thrive and to grow, and I am certainly very pleased that this bill implements the 2018–19 budget measure of reducing the payroll tax for regional businesses from 3.65 per cent to 2.425 per cent, the benefits of which I will discuss further later in my contribution.

What is very clear when you do spend time in these great parts of Victoria right across the state — we as a committee spent quite a lot of time in shires like Buloke and Latrobe city, which is of course more regional than rural — is that these are terrific areas. As I mentioned earlier, these are areas where people work hard and support one another, and these areas need to be supported by the Andrews Labor government. Over the journey thus far we have made significant investments in regional Victoria, with $4.3 billion of investments right across the state: in education $181 million for new and upgraded schools in regional Victoria; and in health $462 million to upgrade the Ballarat Health Service, $115 million for the Wonthaggi Hospital and a further $50 million for regional health infrastructure.

One area that was highlighted in the committee hearings and an area I know many rural and regional Victorians are very passionate about is local roads. I know that road infrastructure funding is critically important. These are of course areas that the government is focused on. We know that 41 000 jobs have been created in regional Victoria. The bill goes on to implement a number of other budget commitments, providing an exemption from duty for first home buyers and an exemption from residency requirements for defence force personnel. I know that a number of members have spoken at length about those changes in the bill. The bill also increases the exemption threshold for the young farmer duty exemption from $300 000 to $600 000 to align with the exemption threshold for the first home buyer duty exemption.

The bill makes a number of other amendments to Victoria’s taxation and revenue laws to ensure that they continue to reflect the underlying policy intent and work hard to close quite a number of those loopholes. This measure in the bill — the payroll tax cut — comes on top of the payroll tax cut for our regions that was provided last year. We are cutting it again to ensure that businesses are able to grow and thrive. The initiative will reduce the payroll tax liability for regional businesses by $167 million over the budget and the forward estimates period, and it is expected to slash costs for around 4000 businesses to create jobs and encourage people to move to regional Victoria. This goes to many of the points that I raised earlier about ensuring that as a state we are providing for each and every Victorian, each and every person who wants the opportunity to work hard, to look after their family, to have the opportunity to buy a home and to do all of those things that people wish to do.

It is critically important that we have the policy settings that are able to do this. This is the third year in a row that the government has eased the payroll tax burden. This is an important step that levels the playing field and supports hardworking Victorians to make the best of themselves and their businesses.

On defence force personnel, in the time that I have remaining, the men and women of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) serve our nation proudly and uphold and protect the freedoms that we hold dearly. We want to make sure that every Victorian has a chance to buy their first home, and that includes those working so very hard to keep Australia safe.

From 1 July 2018 Australian Defence Force personnel applying for a first home buyer duty exemption or concession will no longer need to meet the residency requirements. This in turn means that the ADF personnel will not lose their entitlement to the first home buyer duty exemption or the concession if they are unable to use their home as their principal place of residence for a continuous period of 12 months after purchase. This will allow ADF personnel to fulfil their deployment obligations, which can of course arise at short notice at any given point in time, without it impacting on their stamp duty exemption or concession eligibility. This is another important step and something that is contained in the bill that I fully support.

In the last couple of minutes I just want to talk about young farmers. The bill will also double the stamp duty free threshold for young farmers — who work so very hard to make the best of what is in front of them to support their local communities and in turn support the state — from $300 000 to $600 000, helping more young Victorians looking to buy their first farm. Of course, as I have mentioned, this is so important for our rural communities.

The increase will mean that those farmers under the age of 35 who are buying their first farm property will receive a full stamp duty exemption on purchases up to $600 000. Those purchasing farms between $600 000 and $750 000 will receive a tapered discount. This, combined with a number of the other measures, is the Andrews Labor government putting young farmers on a level playing field with first home buyers by aligning the young farmer land transfer duty exemption and concession with the first home buyer duty exemption and concession.

Those on this side of the house support fairness in every single community right across the state. Whether you are in Hume city, where I am in Sunbury, or whether you are in Buloke, every single Victorian should have the opportunity to live in a fair state, should have the opportunity to better themselves and should have the chance to be supported by policy settings that look after each and every Victorian. Those on this side of the house are part of a government that gets things done, and we stand for giving every Victorian the best chances and the best opportunities. We continue to get things done and we continue to make things fair. A good government’s work is never done; we will continue to work and we will continue to fight. I commend the bill to the house.