In Parliament

Bill - State Taxation Acts and Other Acts Amendment Bill



Thursday, 19 October 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (15:18):

I rise to speak on the State Taxation Acts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2023.

This Bill is an important Bill because it tells us so much about this new Government, this new Jacinta Allan Labor Government, because these measures were first announced on day one of Parliament for the new Premier – day one as Premier.

For background, only two weeks prior the former Premier, as his last act, with a number of Ministers, signed an affordability partnership with industry and talked about a number of measures seeking to address housing issues in Victoria, despite the fact that we know Labor are the architects of the housing crisis.

They signed the affordability partnership, and the first term of the partnership was an ‘obligation’ on all parties to ‘agree to work collaboratively to address housing affordability and availability in Victoria’. The first term of the partnership – and on day one of the Premier’s time in Parliament, the first day that the Premier held her new position in Parliament, this government announced a series of taxes which breached the first term of that signed agreement. It was extraordinary.

Members interjecting.

James NEWBURY: And I do not want to take interjections from members across the chamber who are shouting out ‘Says you’, ‘Says you’, ‘Says you’, ‘Says you’.

Tim Richardson interjected.

James NEWBURY: No, not says me, member for Mordialloc, says the industry.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Meng Heang Tak): Through the Chair!

James NEWBURY: On day one the industry called out the fact that the Government had broken a written agreement signed only two weeks before. How extraordinary. The Property Council used language like they were shocked at the announcement. They had signed an agreement ‘in good faith’, and on the very first day of the Premier’s time in this place as Premier the government decided to break their written agreement with industry. That says a lot about integrity. That says a lot about character. But it also says a lot about a misunderstanding of how to fix the genuine policy problems we face, because you cannot tax your way out of everything. That is the problem with this Labor Government. Their solution to any problem is why don’t we tax it. They think, in the back of their minds, noone has cottoned on to the fact that the only reason they are taxing it is because they have run out of money. So problems come up: we have run out of money as a Government so – what a novel solution – we will tax it. Then we can tell the community we have solved the problem. In fact, their solution will always make it worse. They are spending more than they are bringing, so the debt is just getting bigger.

The announcement of these new taxes has caused a shockwave in the sector, and that is why we have seen very well respected leaders in the sector publicly talk about the fact that they feel that the partnership that was signed has been ‘set on fire’ or that the taxes are ‘a major trust burner’. This is a quote from the Property Council:

Here’s a tip for state governments trying to reach ambitious housing goals in partnership.

Don’t “do a Victoria”.

These are not the words you would ever expect to hear from industry leaders, because they would never use them. Why have they felt the need to use them? Because they know two things: the solutions being proposed by the Government are going to do damage, and the Government has shown that they lack character or integrity in relation to dealing with the sector itself. I mean, can you imagine in good faith dealing with a Government, signing a partnership and within two weeks – the ink on the signature will have only just dried in that time – we have the Government breaching that partnership. That is why the language that is being used by industry is so strong. The industry used language calling on the Government to consider these proposed taxes more clearly.

You can see organisations like the REIV saying that they call on the Government to engage with the sector properly, and that is the genesis of the Amendment that has been moved by the Coalition. It is a call again for the Government to engage with the sector properly, because we know, sadly, that the sector has no trust in the Government moving forward. That is a disappointing thing, and that actually helps no-one. What the sector knows now and what it is saying privately is that the government’s solution to everything is to tax it and to not engage or deal in an honest, collaborative way, which they promised to do.

In relation to the taxes – I have not spoken in detail about the taxes. The taxes in relation to second properties are an assault on hardworking Victorians. People work hard. Victorians work hard. Many times they start businesses. They work hard for their money. They save over years. We know – the statistics show it – that the vast majority of people that own investment properties are not rich.

We know that more than 80 per cent of the rental market is owned by individuals who the ATO report have a taxable income of less than $100,000. They are not rich; they are people who work hard. The Government has come along to these people and said, ‘We’re going to slap a new tax on you, and we’re going to spy on you to try and get more money out of you. If you have a second property, we’re going to start looking at how much and when you use water. We will randomly check with you to see when you have been using your property, and you will have to prove it.’

The State Revenue Office confirmed that they will be asking owners to show receipts of what they have been purchasing in nearby shops to prove they have been using their property. Seriously? It is just outrageous to think that arms of Government now are going to be spying on people and how they use their properties. It is an absolute disgrace. There is little wonder that the industry is appalled by this Government and these taxes. There is also little wonder that hardworking Victorians are appalled by the measures – the attacks on hardworking Victorians – contained in this Bill and why the Coalition at every stage has fought against them, because this is the tipping point. The Government has not realised it yet – so much of the community has seen these new taxes as a tipping point. This is a tipping point. I would say to the Government: this Bill shows your character. This bill shows the character of this new Government, and it is absolutely appalling.