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Statutes Amendment (Budget 2016) Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading

(Continued from 1 November 2016)

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 12:52 :33 ): I rise to speak on the budget bill. This bill aims to make a number of amendments to several acts to accommodate budgetary changes. The bill will change the Education Act so that dependents of 457 visa holders will be classed as full fee-paying students and will be subject to the associated charges. I understand that the fees for the 2017 school year for these students will be $5,100 for a primary school student and $6,100 for a high school student. This brings South Australia into line with most other states and territories, which also charge dependents of 457 visa holders school fees. The fees change from $4,000 per family in Western Australia to about $7,000 for a high school student in the ACT.

The bill also introduces a point-to-point transport service transaction levy of $1. I understand that moneys raised from this levy will go to a fund where owners and drivers of licensed taxis will be able to make application for compensation. This levy is, of course, in reaction to companies such as Uber and GoGet coming into the market and creating competition for traditional taxi owners and drivers. I am sympathetic to taxi owners and drivers who have made significant investments into a taxi licence, only for this market to be stripped away seemingly overnight.

I understand that the government has been trying to negotiate with both sides on this issue, and this compensation fund was deemed to be the middle ground. The taxi industry will face further changes due to the proposal to cap surcharges for non-cash payments at 5 per cent. Given the increasing move to a cashless society, I welcome this move.

Zero Waste SA will change to Green Industries SA under this bill. I find it very ironic that a department which aims to reduce waste will create waste for the sake of changing the name. I do not disagree with the new aims of the Green Industries SA but believe they could have been introduced under the Zero Waste SA branding and do not understand the need to change. With any departmental change, there is sure to be wastage in the form of stationery, business cards, promotional material etc. and I would be grateful if the minister could advise how much is expected to be spent on rebranding and how much the budget is for the new Green Industries SA materials.

I support the provision that allows taxpayers who ask for a review of an account to pay only 50 per cent of the outstanding amount until such time as the appeal is finalised. I know a number of organisations that my office has worked with will place an account on hold whilst a review is being undertaken, and I thank these organisations for their cooperation. I understand this is beyond what is required by the law and thank those organisations for using their common sense and discretion on these matters.

The bill provides the ability for the Registrar-General to more broadly delegate administration of the act to everyone not just public servants. I understand this is necessary as investigations are currently being undertaken to commercialise part of the Land Services group. I am concerned that so much time and effort is being put into this project when the potential financial benefit has not been calculated, yet, from my experience, the services offered by the Land Services group have been functioning well. I cannot understand why the prospect of changing the operation and administration is being entertained without investigating whether this will benefit taxpayers.

I understand that the impetus for this is partly due to the success of a similar scheme in parts of Canada, but I am concerned that this current proposal includes not only the Lands Titles Office but also the State Valuation Office. I have been advised that valuations will be outsourced and then provided back to the Valuer-General who will approve and distribute them to rating and taxing authorities. I understand that the outsourcing in Canada does not include valuation services, only services provided by the lands titles office. This move seems nonsensical to me and, again, I cannot understand why this is being entertained before any benefit to the taxpayer is shown.

Concessions for stamp duty on off-the-plan apartment purchases will be extended by a year. Initially, this concession was only available for off-the-plan properties within the inner metropolitan Adelaide area; however, this requirement will now be removed. Given the struggling economy, I welcome this and would like the Treasurer to consider further extending the stamp duty exemption for any house and land package purchased by a first home buyer or extending the exemption to any off-the-plan purchase, rather than restricting the exemption to apartments only.

I make this argument on two grounds. First of all, the market for apartments is depressed, especially when it comes to resale, and 168 apartments have been resold since 2011 in the Adelaide City Council area. Of these, 47 apartments or 28 per cent of total apartments, sold for less than they were purchased for. Five apartments or 3 per cent of total apartments sold for the same amount for which they were bought, but would have lost money on the transaction due to other property transfer costs.

The second reason is that providing additional exemptions will result in boosting employment and the South Australian economy through the building sector, especially as stamp duty is one of the highest, if not the highest, of purchasing a property. Whilst the bill does not specifically speak of the first home buyer's grant, a matter has been brought to my attention recently with regard to eligibility. A constituent contacted me with concerns that people who migrate from other countries and take up residency in Australia are eligible for the first home buyer's grant, notwithstanding their financial status overseas.

The example provided to me concerned British expats who often owned a property or multiple properties in the UK and in Europe but who migrate to Australia in retirement. If these individuals are building a home, they are entitled to a $15,000 first home buyer's grant. I am sure the intent of the grant is not to target people such as these and I would be interested to hear from the minister as to whether RevenueSA has any statistics on how many grants have been given to people in these circumstances.

Exemptions for land tax will be extended for land owned by sporting and racing associations. I understand this is to address situations where a sporting or racing association may own a clubroom and there has been ambiguity as to whether these properties are entitled to the exemption that currently exists in section 5 of the Land Tax Act.

Principal place of residence exemptions will also be extended to people who own or buy a property with the view of renovating before moving in. Currently, there is an exemption for one year but this will be extended to two. The bill also allows a similar exemption for people who purchase a property but who do not move in, as they intend to renovate. I have filed amendments to this bill in relation to land tax exemptions and gambling taxes and look forward to the debate on these during the committee stage.

Finally, the bill aims to introduce a 15 per cent place of origin betting operations tax. It is estimated to raise $10 million in the first year by taxing the net wagering revenue received from persons located in South Australia. The government has committed to contributing an additional $500,000 to the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund from this tax revenue in the first year. I commend the government of this move, although it will come as no surprise that I would like a larger contribution.

In the 2013-14 financial year, the government received $402 million from gambling taxes. In the same year, the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund received $6.005 million, which is only 1.5 per cent of the total taxation revenue. The $6.005 million contribution to the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund comprised contributions from the government, the Australian Hotels Association, the Casino and the leisure sectors.

The government's contribution to the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund was only $3.845 million which is not even 1 per cent of the total gambling revenue it received that year. Despite gambling taxes comprising almost 10 per cent of total tax revenue that year, the government gave less than 0.1 per cent of this revenue to the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund. For the government to continue to profess that it is concerned about problem gamblers is quite frankly a joke. I welcome the proposed 5 per cent contribution to the GRF from the betting operations tax, but the government should contribute an equal amount from total gambling revenue.

In researching this, I could not find any information on the manner in which contributions to the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund are calculated. I could not find any information on how it was determined who would pay what and on what basis this was decided, and I would like further information on this from the minister. How was it determined that $500,000 would be an appropriate amount to give to the GRF from the betting operations tax? What was the basis for that? How does it compare with other monies that the government contributes to the GRF and how were those amounts determined? With that, I support the second reading of the bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M. Gazzola.