Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 1) Bill 2011

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (12:42): I also want to make a few remarks on that part of the Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 1) Bill 2011 that deals with making exempt from income tax the disaster income recovery subsidy payments made to victims of the recent floods and Cyclone Yasi. Both events were traumatic for those involved and there was loss of life in both instances. Regrettably, both happened in my home state of Queensland. I want to emphasise to anyone who might be listening to this debate that, whilst there were those disasters, they are a matter of coursethat is, nature occurring. Indeed, Queensland is open for business and always has been. We know how to deal with cyclones, particularly in the north. They cause great trauma to those directly involved, but for the rest of the North Queensland area life continues as usual. Holiday destinations along the north coast of Queensland are certainly open and very welcoming to people around Australia, and indeed the world, who may want to experience a great holiday in the North Queensland sunshine as we approach the southern winter.

I also wish to address the aspect of the bill where recovery subsidy payments are made to victims. I think it is appropriate that they are exempt from income tax. This has always been something that various governments have looked at. I think the Howard govern_ment set the scene some years ago when it declared tax exemption for payments to victims of a cyclone in Western Australia whose name I cannot recall. I think that was the first instance when the Howard govern_ment dealt with this particular problem that arises from disaster subsidy payments and set the scene for subsequent governments to follow and apply income tax relief to these payments. While I am on my feet I also want to congratulate the Greens political party for their support of legislation which effectively provided a tax on all Australians to assist with the flood recovery in my state of Queens_land and elsewhere but which imposed its burden only on individual tax_payers and not upon those companies that the Greens are always railing againstthose multinational mining companies that are ripping the lifeblood out of Australia. That, I mention for the benefit of the Hansard, is a summary of the approach the Greens political party have always made. They always look at these international investors in Australia and say how awful it is that they are digging up Australia and exporting the profits overseas. It amazes me then why the Greens supported the Labor Party in imposing a flood tax on individuals but allowed those multinational profit-taking companies, that the Greens are always so keen to talk about, to be exempt from any payment of that flood tax which would go towards recovery in Queensland and elsewhere.

I simply cannot understand, with all the rhetoric you hear from the Greens as we approach the budget on how we need to increase taxes on these mining companies and other international companies, why they exempted those very same companies from the flood levy, from the flood tax. If the Greens were genuineand you know my view on that I do not think the Greens are genuine about too much at all except personal publicity and promotion of their ultra left-wing agenda within the Australian political sceneone would wonder why they would tax Australian individuals but let off all of those companies which make substan_tial profits in Australia.

I do not want to rehash the debate on the flood levy but I always thought that rather than having a flood levy it would have been better to take the money needed for the recovery from cyclones and floods from the general revenue in which case companies would pay company tax towards it, the extra wealthy would pay a higher level of contribution towards it and those with lower incomes would barely contribute at all. That is appropriate in a nation with a progressive tax system. But no, the Greens did not support that. The Labor Party and the Greens, the alliance, got together and taxed individual Australians but let companies go.

It has been brought home to me as I have toured the cyclone devastated parts of North Queensland that the local butcher and the local baker are paying the flood recovery tax but Woolworths and Coles, their competitors in the bread and meat markets, are not paying a cent towards the flood recovery levy. How could the so-called party of the worker, the Labor Party, and the Greens, who are so keen on their left-wing agenda, possibly penalise local small businesses in North Queensland and indeed elsewhere by imposing a flood tax on them but exempt Coles and Woolworths, who compete with them in their businesses

As we approach the budget tonight you will find a lot more of that sort of hypocrisy coming from the Greens. I say to the Greens: good on you. You are supporting a govern_ment that believes in the Pacific solution. I thought the Greens were opposed to the Pacific solution for boat people who come here without permission. I thought they were violently opposed to that and yet here they are supporting a government which is now having

Senator Xenophon interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Xenophon interjects and says, 'It is not the Pacific solution; it is the South China Sea solution.' You are accurate as always, Senator Xenophon, but tell me the difference. If it goes to Manus Island, it will be again adopting the Pacific solution and I would not mind having a bet with you, Senator Xenophon, that eventually

Senator Xenophon: I do not bet.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You only bet up to a limit, I know. I would not mind betting that it will not be too long before our current Prime Minister, in spite of all of her promises, will actually do what Mr Abbott has suggested and pick up the phone to the president and have the boat people also dealt with at other places in the Pacific.

Here you have another example of the hypocrisy of the Greens and you are going to get a lot of that in the next couple of days as the Greensthey talk about how they oppose these thingssupport when the crunch comes their mates in the Labor Party to adopt the Pacific solution, if I may call it that. What confidence can anyone have in the Greens I just cannot wait until the new Senate starts and we have Senator elect Rhiannon in the Greens little group here. Unfortunately you do not bet, Senator Xenophon, but I would not mind betting that she will be making a leadership bid very soon after she gets here and who would discourage her from attempting to do that and give a bit of real exposure to the Greens as to what they really stand for. I do not think Senator elect Rhiannon tries to hide where she is coming from, where she is going to or what her goals are, and that might be a refreshing change even if it is a change that is totally abhorrent to particularly those of us on this side of the chamber.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Senator Macdonald, for some time now we have been straying a long way from the question.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You have anticipated me wonderfully, Mr Acting Deputy President. The next words to come out of my mouth were to be: 'But I think I have strayed a little from the debate before the chamber on the exemption from income tax of disaster income recovery subsidy payments.' I will conclude my remarks; I do not want to delay the chamber. I will simply say that with the victims of Cyclone Yasi this sort of legislation is well received. It is certainly supported by the coalition and, as I say, it follows an initiative started by the Howard government some time ago. There are anxieties, if I might put it that way, with the recovery effort. I was told recently that the number of suicides in the town of Tully, which was one of the towns that received the direct brunt of Cyclone Yasi, have increased. That in itself is a tragedy.

I know a lot of small businesses in Mission Beach, Cardwell and Tully will not reopen. People had put their life savings into small businesses in those areas affected by the cyclone. In terms of being able to take advantage of the generosity of other Australians in making voluntary donations to various appeals and also of the Australian people as a whole through the flood taxnot Australian companies, I might add, but Australian people who will be contributing through the flood taxthe way that has been administered is causing some real concern and the rules relating to that have also caused some anxiety. I think it is not the time today or on this bill to go into that. Suffice to say that, as with so many things with the Labor Party at both federal and state level, the idea is good and the principle is correct but the administration of those relief schemes leaves a lot to be desired. Never is sufficient thought given to them. Never is sufficient thought paid to the importance of small business in those areas and of the small business people who create the jobs in all parts of Australia but particularly in regional Australia. As I say, I am distressed to hear that a number of them will not reopen their doors. But insofar as this legislation is concerned, as Senator Cormann has said, the coalition support the exemption from income tax of those subsidy payments and we urge support for this bill.

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