State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2018
I take great pleasure in joining the debate on the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2018 before the house. In particular, as someone who grew up in regional Victoria and who is now the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria, I want to highlight what a benefit the measures contained in this bill and flagged in the budget are to job generation in this state. I know you, Acting Speaker Couzens, as a regional member as well, fully understand how the reduction in payroll tax last year and now the effective halving this year is going to make an enormous difference to some 4000 businesses in regional Victoria.
When most people think of a benefit like this they think about the larger cities like Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, maybe Warrnambool, maybe Latrobe, maybe Shepparton or maybe Wodonga, but this extends to every part of the state. I get to visit every municipality in the state, but parts of my electorate reside in the Shire of Mitchell. Beveridge and Wallan are actually in the Shire of Mitchell but are inside the urban growth boundary, so I am calling this the special economic zone because this area is not that far from the centre of town and the fact that taxes on employment have been reduced so close to Melbourne offers an enormous opportunity. I know it is an opportunity that the business sector is taking up rapidly and is queueing up to take advantage of.
It does not only mean that people can live and work locally. Often the criticism that is made about broadacre new housing estates in outer suburbs is that there is a dearth of employment, but this is one of the strongest ever measures by any government in this country to actually make a change to that. It means that every municipality, like the Shire of Mitchell and the Shire of Murrindindi — which are still struggling with the ravages after Black Saturday and have still got much less population and fewer rate notices than they did nine years ago — will have the advantage of being able to go out to the corporate sector and say, ‘We are not very far from Melbourne. We have got good places like Kinglake, Flowerdale and Yea where you could come and invest and pay half the payroll tax if 85 per cent of your employees are outside greater Melbourne’. So it not only means that people can live and work in country communities or work very close to where they live in outer suburban Melbourne but it also has the ability to make a significant difference in congestion for those of us who represent and/or live in the outer suburbs when we see the trail of red tail-lights going into town in the morning peak and then going out of town in the evening peak.
What this measure will do is enable significant-sized employers to establish themselves and offer employment just on the periphery of Melbourne in that ring of peri-urban municipalities that actually need the rate revenue. It will mean that people can head outwards: they can head west, they can head north, they can head east to go to work, effectively using the assets and infrastructure of the state — what the taxpayer invests in in roads and public transport. They can go in the opposite direction.
I know that particularly in the Shire of Mitchell they are really on the front foot with this. They have put out a prospectus to the market, pretty much saying, ‘Come and invest in Mitchell, not only because it is a great place to live and work, but because it is a great place to invest because of the reduction in payroll tax’. Also those moving into that shire can have access to the regional first home owners grant: $20 000 rather than $10 000. They can have the benefit of stamp duty that is not payable on housing below $600 000. We all know in greater Melbourne that it is pretty difficult to get a house under that figure these days, but it is still very possible and very probable in regional Victoria.
Other municipalities are likely to benefit from this. A lot of my relatives grew up in Lara. Lara and Little River are not that far from Melbourne, and there will be great opportunities, I think, for businesses to set up there. The many communities that are in the electorate of the Minister for Health, who is at the table, or in the Treasurer’s electorate — those residing in Wyndham, in Caroline Springs — can go outwards to the Shire of Moorabool, to the Shire of Golden Plains on the outer edges of Melbourne or out into Gippsland. So this bill is going to make a huge difference. I also think for remote communities like the Shire of Buloke that actually struggles with its population when trying to maintain numbers in its schools and offer a full range of subjects at senior high school, being able to have businesses like Kooka’s Country Cookies and also Australian Eatwell — that great vegetarian food manufacturer in Donald — means they can grow even more significantly and spend extra money on their plant and invest in and offer more local jobs because they are paying a whole lot less tax.
I would like to rebut some of what the member for Malvern had to say in his contribution heading up the coalition’s opposition to this bill. He made an outrageous claim — he quite regularly does exaggerate and make outrageous claims — when he said that Victoria is the highest taxing state. Well, that is in fact incorrect. For taxes and royalties, per capita we are actually behind New South Wales. On the fire services property levy, he made a claim that this had been increased in the bill before the house, and that this is somehow a payoff to those ‘evil’ union friends that we have on this side of the house. I say ‘evil’ because I do not think they are evil at all; I think they represent the workers and are out there trying to promote safety in workplaces. What the member for Malvern said was completely incorrect about that levy because it has actually been frozen in this budget. There is no increase in this budget, and the formula for determining the level of this funding was set by the coalition when they introduced the bill in government, so the claim is completely untrue. He also made some claims in relation to payroll tax revenues, saying we had increased taxes. This is also demonstrably untrue. We have increased the threshold for all businesses across the state, and as I said, there is a significant change for regional businesses.
The reason why revenue is up is because 320 000 additional people have been employed in this state since this government came to office. That is probably something that the member for Malvern would find a little bit difficult to understand because there was no employment growth at all to support population growth on his watch. I think part of that would come down to the fact that the coalition built very little. They created very little employment by not initiating any investments in infrastructure, and that also reduced confidence in the private sector. We have completely turned that around so that 320 000 new Victorians are employed in this state.
Also, people’s wages have gone up. When you have demand for labour, the cost of that labour can go up, and that is one of the biggest problems across Australia. The retail sector is certainly finding that, in that it has suppressed demand because there are many people in the economy whose wages have not been going up, so they have found it difficult. You have got a lot more working poor, with people finding it harder to make ends meet. But in Victoria we have more people that are actually being paid more because of the need for skills in this economy. I think that the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill has a very measured set of proposals, a very smart set of proposals that have come from the budget. The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry quoted in its media release —