1. 2020 has been anything but ordinary. The year started with bushfire ravaging 1.2 million hectares of land, and now we are going through a global virus pandemic.
2. During the devastating bushfires, the Victorian government responded swiftly and declared a state of disaster. The Premier along with his cabinet were at the front lines, understanding the pain of everyday Victorians and aiding them in every way they could.
3. There is no way we can thank the emergency workers enough for the work they did during the bushfire disaster.
4. To expedite the recovery and rebuilding efforts, the Andrews Labor government announced more than $270 million in support and relief to help bushfire-affected communities.
B. What does this Bill bring?
5. One of the vital reliefs this package brings is the immediate land tax relief for destroyed and substantially damaged properties.
6. It also provides relief for properties used to provide free accommodation for people who needed it. This is one of the ways we want to thank the people who stepped up and lent a helping hand to their fellow Victorians.
7. This bill also waives water rates for 12 months for all homes or businesses destroyed or significantly damaged by the fires. It also provides rebates for customers affected by interruptions to their water supply.
8. Further, this bill brings relief to business owners as well. The small business industry is the backbone of the Victorian economy. The bushfires directly impacted the bottom lines for many businesses.
9. Hence, this bill includes grants for small businesses, regional industry groups and chambers of commerce to help them get back on their feet.
10. The package includes $500 000 for grants to regional industry groups and chambers of commerce to facilitate vital networking events, tourism opportunities and pro-bono business partnerships.
11. Small business advisers will also be stationed at relief centres to give businesses the support and advice they need. This bill also includes support for the wine industry to access technical advice, so it’s best placed for this year’s vintage.
12. We also wish to support new business growth in the affected areas. So this bill also includes a 50 per cent concession on stamp duty for eligible properties, allowing businesses to relocate, expand or move into the fire-affected areas. This is an incentive for businesses to see the growth opportunities these communities provide. This is a clear sign that these destinations are open for business.
13. This bill also incorporates funding to rebuild and upgrade local schools and community infrastructure.
C. Extending the regional first home owner grant
14. This bill also extends the operation of the regional first home owner grant of $20 000, which currently ends on 30 June 2020, by a further year to 30 June 2021.
15. This is part of the landmark Homes for Victorians package. First home buyers purchasing a house that costs $600 000 or less do not have to pay any stamp duty, while concessions apply up to a purchasing cost of $750 000.
16. The Andrews Labor government understands how difficult it is to purchase a home, especially for young Victorians. House prices are rising and upfront costs—a deposit, stamp duty and fees—quickly add up.
17. The extension of the $20 000 first home owner grant will make it easier for people to build or buy a new home and continue to stay in the regional communities.
18. Since July 2017, more than 29 000 people have taken up the first home owner grant across Victoria. They have saved over $400 million, and four of the 10 most popular local government areas for the grant are in regional Victoria.
19. This shows the community that young Victorians have been able to build in regional Victoria with the support of the Andrews Labor government.
D. Delivering payroll tax relief to regional employers
20. We were the first in Australia to cut payroll tax for regional Victoria. In the 2019–20 budget, the government announced further cuts to the regional payroll tax. These cuts bring the payroll tax down to 25 per cent of the metropolitan rate—1.12125 per cent—phased in over three years.
21. Any business which pays at least 85 per cent of its payroll to regional employees and whose principal place of business is located in a state of disaster area will be eligible for the reduced payroll tax rate on its entire payroll.
22. This will further cut the payroll tax for over 3500 businesses supporting entities in regional Victoria. It will bring major economic growth to regional Victoria while encouraging job creation.
23. Through this bill, we are bringing forward that cut with immediate effect for regional employers in state of disaster areas—backdated to the first of July 2019.
24. Bringing forward a cut to the payroll tax rate will provide a much-needed support to businesses in these fire-affected communities. It will help them recover faster.
E. Delivering emergency tax relief
25. The Andrews Labor government is delivering the biggest business support package in Victorian history to support businesses survive the pandemic and to protect jobs.
26. In response to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, the government’s economic survival package announced a full refund and waiver of 2019–20 payroll tax liabilities for businesses with payrolls up to $3 million.
27. This is benefiting more than 30 000 businesses, including immediate refunds of tax already paid. This is more than $400 million of cash refunds back into the hands of businesses so that they can support themselves.
28. It will also support an estimated $420 million of land tax relief for landlords that provide rental relief to their commercial and residential tenants in response to a drop in the tenant’s income or turnover as a result of the coronavirus.
29. The Andrews Labor government wants to be better prepared for the next disaster. We do not know when black swan events like coronavirus will occur; however, to be better prepared, this bill will allow the government to response faster to other emerging issues.
30. By providing vital support like emergency tax relief and refunds to Victorians, we can respond to the future emergencies faster.
F. Closing remarks
31. While these are difficult times, the Andrews Labor government is working hard to deliver relief to Victorians.
32. The government has already delivered billions in tax relief, and this bill is building on that record.
33. This bill brings much needed relief to Victorian businesses and households. It is important to relieve the burden on business and households during 2020. It will also support job retention.
34. The Andrews Labor government is supporting Victorians to get through the current coronavirus crisis, and we are also preparing for any future emergencies that may occur.
35. I commend the bill to the house.