STATUTES AMENDMENT AND REPEAL (BUDGET 2015) BILL

Tuesday 08 September, 2015

Mr TARZIA: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I rise today to speak to the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Budget 2015) Bill and indicate I will not be the lead speaker. The bill contains many measures that form part of the government's budget initiatives for 2015-16 and certainly implements some of the outcomes that the state tax review looked into. I note there are a number of key features of this bill, and I would like to point out some of these to the house if I may.

 

Mr TARZIA: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I rise today to speak to the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Budget 2015) Bill and indicate I will not be the lead speaker. The bill contains many measures that form part of the government's budget initiatives for 2015-16 and certainly implements some of the outcomes that the state tax review looked into. I note there are a number of key features of this bill, and I would like to point out some of these to the house if I may.

Firstly, I note that stamp duty has been abolished under the proposal in relation to non-real property transfers, as well as non-quoted marketable securities. I also note, in addition, that by 1 July 2018 it is said that stamp duty will be abolished on non-residential real property transfers—for example, things like fishing licences, taxi licences and gaming machine licences, which are also covered under the bill. It is also said that there will be somewhat of a phased abolition of conveyance duty on non-residential real property transfers between 1 July 2016 and 1 July 2018. I understand that duty rates will also be reduced by a third from 1 July 2016, a further third from 1 July 2017, before that duty is abolished from 1 July 2018. The government estimates that more than 5,500 transfers each year will benefit from the abolition of this duty.

There is also the effective abolishment of stamp duty on genuine corporate restructures, and this is obviously a good thing. In the past, people have told me that they are more than happy to set up in a different jurisdiction. Because of the stamp duty on some of their corporate restructures at the moment, we know that South Australia has to do better in this area, and I welcome that effective abolishment.

I note that from 1 July 2018 stamp duty on the issue, the redemption and the transfer of units in unit trusts under section 71 of the Stamp Duties Act will be abolished. Furthermore, from 18 June 2015, transfers of retention tenements will receive the same concessional stamp duty arrangements that apply to transfers of exploration tenements. But wait, there is more: the Taxation Administration Act 1996 will be amended so it will only require, as I understand, 50 per cent of the tax in dispute to be paid before an appeal can be lodged with the Supreme Court, and at the moment I believe it is 100 per cent. There is also the abolition of the Save the River Murray levy and the Hindmarsh Island Bridge levy.

I will support the bill, but in speaking to the bill I want to point out a couple of things: firstly, where we are at as a state. We are in an environment in South Australia where we are the highest taxed state and we have the highest unemployment rate in all of the land—we have even gone past Tasmania. With the utmost respect to the government, what was called for at the last budget was some leadership and a budget that actually delivered some confidence in the market—the housing market, the business market—and that confidence has not come.

Whilst there are some measures—and I welcome some of these measures—I feel like we have not gone far enough. For example, with the abolition of stamp duty by 1 July 2018 on non-residential real property transfers, why would we not bring that forward to now, because what the market needs and what the people of South Australia need is activity. We all know that when you have activity—when there is buying, when there is selling, when there is trading happening—that leads on to other parts of the economy. For me, it's a no-brainer. It is a no-brainer that these stamp duty measures should be brought forward right now. If you are serious about them, let's bring them on right now, because we are in a dark place economically; let's be under no illusions here.

As well as a phased abolition of conveyance duty on non-residential real property transfers, again, why would we not bring that forward? We need to bring that forward. We then talk about the effective abolition of stamp duty on the issue, redemption and transfer of units. Again, we should be bringing that forward. We should be bringing all of that forward.

I was at a meeting last night with several people in the property sector in my electorate of Hartley, and let me say that a lot of people have looked at this budget—a lot of smart, savvy, commercial operators have looked at this budget and they have said to me, 'Vincent, why would I want to transfer or why would I want to trade when a lot of these measures don't come in for some years?' They have a commercial gain or a commercial benefit, and these are the sorts of people who think on the margins. They think about opportunity costs and things like that. Why would they not wait when the government has actually given them an incentive to hang on a bit longer, to not trade, to not reinvest for a while and to not grow for a while? If we are serious about stimulating the market—and we need to stimulate the market because we do have an economic crisis and a jobs crisis in South Australia—it is incumbent on the government of the day to bring these measures forward.

The state Liberals have reiterated calls on many occasions for the state Labor government to commit to reducing payroll tax and to slash emergency services levy bills by reversing the $90 million ESL hike announcement which came in the 2014 state budget. We have called to bring forward the planned stamp duty relief to take effect this year—not down the track but this year—and also to commence building on a number of projects, for example, the northern connector route, finalising an investigation regarding the Strzelecki track upgrade and creating a state-based productivity commission.

South Australia has got the highest unemployment in the nation, and this is before the job cuts that are coming from the mining sector. We have heard in recent times about BHP Billiton, the Port Augusta power stations, the Leigh Creek coal mine and Holden. To create jobs in our state we need a low-tax environment—an environment where red tape is reduced, where businesses have the confidence to invest and have the confidence to move forward and to provide for that economic growth.

Not only that but we need to reduce taxes to leave more money in the pockets of South Australians so that they can go out and they can spend more money—they can go and spend more money on goods and services and spend more money direct to South Australian businesses. We need to improve business conditions, we need to improve business confidence. You cannot tax your way to prosperity. It has to be a small business-led recovery, and we owe it on behalf of the more than 100,000 businesses of South Australia to give them a bit of a kick, to give them a bit of a head start. You do not do that by providing more tax. You do not do that by taking money away from good, hard-working South Australians: you do that by enabling South Australians and enabling South Australian businesses, like those I spoke to in my electorate last night.

These business people are looking at hanging on to assets at the moment, not trading them, not value-adding them at the moment, because what this government of the day has done is actually stifling activity, and it should be ashamed for doing that. I know that South Australia has got the lowest employment growth forecast in Australia over the next five years; and in August the federal Department of Employment actually released its five-year employment forecast and it revealed some damning figures which said that South Australia had the lowest employment growth forecast in Australia. That report actually predicted that South Australia will add only 53,800 jobs between November 2014 and November 2019, and this obviously compares to interstate.

Have a look at New South Wales (a good Liberal government over there), which will create, it said, 358,000 jobs; Victoria, 308,700 jobs; and Queensland, which will create 243,600 jobs during the same period. So it is quite clear that we are lagging behind. In percentage terms, South Australia's estimated jobs growth of 6.7 per cent over five years is clearly the lowest of all the states and territories, and these figures are certainly of massive concern to people looking ahead, people looking ahead and investing in South Australia and people looking ahead and working in South Australia—good, smart, young people graduating and weighing up their options, 'Do we stay in South Australia? Do we move interstate?'

It is quite clear that there is great difficulty here in these sorts of conditions in obtaining a job now let alone in the future. So what we need are more job creation policies now. We need them now. We need activity now. We do not need them in the future. We need them now.

Obviously, I am an advocate for the mining industry. I want to see the mining industry do well. Our state has one of the largest deposits of minerals in the world and we should be doing more but, unfortunately, we do need to diversify. It is only when the tide goes out that you know who is swimming naked—that is a Warren Buffett quote.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Don't they move with the sea water, though?

Members interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: I won't respond to interjections.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! As Speaker, I do not believe I can be interjecting; I am giving a ruling on whether the people are actually exposed.

Mr TARZIA: It would be defying your order, Deputy Speaker. You have reminded me many times to not—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: At least I am listening to you.

Mr TARZIA: That is right, and I listen to you too, Deputy Speaker, all the time. I note that 5,300 mining jobs have been lost since November last year and that there are a number of challenges in this sector. I feel for parts of the state like Port Augusta, where these cuts are hitting fast and hard. It highlights that, whilst we do have a fantastic agricultural base and a mining base that has enabled us to have so much prosperity in the past, we need to diversify and we need to transform. We need policies and confidence and courage from this government to make sure that we provide for growth and activity, because at the moment that is not happening. Whatever has been done for the past 13 years, economic conditions are deteriorating and we need to move fast. We need aggressive actions and aggressive measures. Whatever the government's jobs plan is at the moment, it is not working and it is time for a completely new economic policy to fix this problem.

With that commentary, I hope that I have pointed out some of the issues we are facing here in South Australia at the moment, and, as per convention, I will support the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Budget 2015) Bill.