Treasurer Taxation Finance

State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2015

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to join the debate on the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 20I 5. I
listened with interest to the contribution of the member for Macedon, who talked about the finest and the best
legislation. 1 point out to the member that merely reading the guidelines into Hansard does not give them any status
at all.

Mr WALSH — They are what you have said. The guidelines do not change one thing. Having the member for
Macedon read them into Hansard does not give them any legal or legislative status at all. I commend the member
for doing such a great job of reading them into Hansard, but they do not actually mean anything when it comes to
legislation and the point of law.

I also point out to the member for Macedon, who talked about the Finest and the best legislation, that this
government realised the legislation was flawed before it was even debated. It does not actually work. It produces a
perverse outcome and does not do what the government was proposing it would do. The simple fact is if
government members want to have the finest and best legislation, they should amend their own legislation, admit
they got it wrong, cop it on the chin and say, 'We got it wrong, let's amend it and put those guidelines in the
legislation so that they actually have some status'.

1 have some serious concerns that having guidelines that are at the discretion of the Treasurer to do as he sees fit
gives the perception, if nothing else, that this could be open to rorting. I would probably phrase these guidelines as
the Progressive Business guidelines, because if you pay to go to a Progressive Business function, if you put enough
money on the table, that may just afford the opportunity —

Mr WALSH — It is about perception. lam not saying it would happen. But the way the legislation is
structured — that is, the fact that the legislation does not contain the guidelines and that there is no reporting against
them so that no-one would know who the Treasurer is giving exemptions to — means that there is the perception in
the public's eye that this is open to rorting and corruption.

Mr WALSH — Members on the other side might interject and make a lot of noise about it, but this is a very
serious issue. If you are talking about, in the member for Macedon's words, 'the finest and the best legislation', this
does not pass the sniff test. It is flawed legislation that the government has realised delivers a perverse outcome and
now wants to fix with these non-binding guidelines. 'Non-binding guidelines' says to me that they do not have
much status at all in this place or in the court system and that there is an opportunity for people to use these
guidelines for their own personal gain.

As I said, we can call them the Progressive Business guidelines because it could be believed by members of the
public that if you pay enough money to go to a Labor Party fundraising function, you may have the opportunity to
sit at the table with the Treasurer and put your case fbrward as to why you should have a particular exemption to

That creates an issue in itself. Only the big players in property development would have the money to do that. The
smaller developers may not have the money to pay the $ 10 000-a-plate cost to go to a Progressive Business
function and to then have the opportunity to potentially get exemptions under these non-binding guidelines.

This part of the legislation talks about the issue of housing affordability. I do not think we can have a debate in this
place about housing affordability if we do not look at the whole issue of housing affordability. It supposedly
addresses the issue of foreign buyers, which the shadow Treasurer put a very good case for in his contribution.
When it comes to housing affordability, the bigger issue is the cost of construction in this state. lf we are serious
about addressing the issue of housing affordability, we need to address the cost of construction, which is effectively
dominated by the sweetheart deals that the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has with
this government. The CFMEU has a very close relationship with the Premier of this state. The government needs to
bring back a building code that gives developers in this state a reasonable chance of being able to control rogue
unions, blockades and all those sorts of things that are happening. The issue around Boral Concrete is a classic
example of where union power has gone too far and is adding to the cost of construction in this state. The people I
talk to say that Victoria is not the place to do business if you want to build something, because the cost of
construction is too high in this state.

This is not good legislation. It is not the finest and best legislation, as someone on the other side of the house
described it; it is legislation that is flawed. The government already realises it is flawed and is trying to fix it with
non-binding guidelines. I have set out very clearly the case for how that has at least the potential to be roiled or to
lead to corruption in this state. But I think the key issue with this legislation is that the now Premier and the now
Treasurer went to the election with a very clear commitment to the people of Victoria that there would be no new
taxes. There would be no new taxes, there would be no new charges and there would be no increases in things to
pay for this government's promises. What we have in the first six months of this new government is a major broken
promise, with a new tax that adds to the cost of one part of society doing business, and it does not deliver the
outcome that the government is proposing it will do.

As the shadow Treasurer clearly set out in his contribution, this legislation needs a detailed examination. We
understand the government has the numbers in this house to put this legislation through, but when it goes to the
upper house there is the opportunity for it to be referred to a legislation committee for that committee to have a
serious look at it. If the government were serious about having good legislation, it would amend it in this house and
put those guidelines into legislation or into regulations that are disallowable instruments and that have to be tabled
in this Parliament so there is proper scrutiny. More importantly, the government needs to insert in those
non-binding guidelines a proper reporting mechanism so that the people of Victoria can see when the Treasurer
makes an exemption, who has been exempted and how much money that exemption has cost the taxpayers of
Victoria. I would prefer to see proper structured guidelines so that it is clear and transparent.

I will finish where I started. This bill is flawed and leaves the perception in the eyes of the people of Victoria that it
can lead to routing and corruption. I will repeat what I said: I think we should name these non-binding guidelines
the Progressive Business guidelines, because it will come down to those with the most money, who pay for the
most meals at the most fundraisers for the Labor Party, who will get exemptions under these guidelines in the

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