State Taxation Acts Amendment (Relief Measure) Bill 2020

Appropriation (Interim) Bill 2020

A. Introduction

1. We are all aware that the world is going through a pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen in almost a century. These are extraordinary times, different from anything I have seen in my lifetime.

2. Extraordinary times like these are forcing us to take extraordinary steps. These measures involve the need to alter, adjourn, postpone or do without any long-established and cherished activities.

3. There is nothing normal about the current circumstances, and hence the normal procedures can’t be undertaken.

B. Delay of the budget

4. The uncertainty surrounding the dimensions of social and economic disruption brought upon us by the pandemic makes it difficult for us to go ahead with introducing the state budget. Therefore, all governments—federal, state and territory—have decided to delay their budgets this year.

5. The circumstances at this stage are unpredictable and uncertain. The volatility right now makes it difficult to develop reasonable estimates on which to base a budget.

6. The unprecedented situation due to the pandemic makes it difficult to predict the state of the economy in the coming months, and hence, it is not reasonable to present a budget.

7. We know it is a difficult time, however, the Andrews Labor government is making sure that Victorians are safe.

8. The Victorian government has made investments which will help Victoria get through this.

C. Commitment to date

9. The government, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has already committed significant investments to support Victoria.

10. The investment is going towards supporting our health system to deal with this pandemic and towards Victorian households and businesses to keep them going.

11. The Andrews Labor government has committed over $3.5 billion for these support packages.

12. We are prioritising the health and welfare of the people first. We know that once the coronavirus pandemic has passed, the Victorian economy will be restored.

13. However, the Victorian government needs to prioritise the health and welfare of the Victorian people and make more investments towards the fight with coronavirus.

14. The budget parameters we had previously need to change to meet the current situation.

15. There will be an increase in debt. The good news is that Victoria was in a very strong position before the pandemic. We came in with a strong balance sheet, with a AAA credit rating and with consistent budget surpluses. This puts us in a great position to borrow now to save Victorian lives and to protect Victorian jobs.

16. There may be a revision of the credit rating in the future of all governments across the world; however, Victoria is in a strong position relative to many national governments across the world, so Victorians can rest easy.

17. This appropriation bill will provide the Victorian government authority to keep responding to the current crisis while keeping the usual business of government operating until then.

18. This bill only covers the first six months of the 2020–21 financial year. It is our intention to introduce a state budget for 2020–21 before the end of 2020.

19. It is our hope that the coronavirus emergency will be largely over. However, the ripple effects of this crisis will be felt for a long while.

D. Commitment towards health care

20. An additional $437 million is committed toward the health system for additional beds and equipment, extra funding for emergency departments and intensive care units, additional resourcing for pandemic containment activities and support for workforce continuity.

21. We also committed a $1.3 billion injection for expanded ICU capacity.

22. Through these investments we are making sure that our frontline workers have modern resources to fight the coronavirus crisis.

23. Victorians can also rest easy to know that we are prepared to take the swift steps to keep Victorians safe.

E. Commitment towards businesses

24. We have also committed a $1.7 billion economic survival and jobs package, which includes $550 million in payroll tax refunds, a $500 million Business Support Fund and a $500 million Working for Victoria Fund.

25. Many constituents of the Western Metropolitan Region have contacted my office to seek information about this survival and jobs package.

F. Commitment towards Victorians

26. A $500 million package is aimed at giving certainty to residential and commercial tenants and landlords.

27. People will be able to stay in homes and stay safe.

28. Renters should not feel the pressure during such times, and landlords should not lose an income source during this time. We are making sure that we take care of all Victorians.

29. This bill also ensures that the vital work on the infrastructure program continues in the safest way possible. These infrastructure projects are not only important for jobs now, but they will play a significant role in the recovery.

30. We drove Victoria’s Big Build. Construction projects like this will change the infrastructure of Victoria significantly and will keep Victorians moving for years to come.

31. We have been working closely with industry and the unions to ensure we protect our workers, with 115 000 people working across Victoria’s Big Build and other projects. Their safety and jobs are protected with us.

G. Additional funding

32. The events of 2020 could not have been predicted. Victoria went through a major bushfire disaster just months ago. It is prudent to provide additional funding for the 2019–20 financial year in this bill.

33. The bill provides an additional $10 billion in 2019–20 and $14.5 billion in 2020–21. These amounts are significant, but to support Victorian through these times we have to take unprecedented steps.

34. This is for the additional expenditure for direct response to the coronavirus and the economic recovery.

35. These amounts are not the predictions of expenses that will occur in the fight against coronavirus. They are just too unpredictable to estimate, and we are in no position to make a forecast.

36. These amounts are a safeguard, a safety net to make sure that we can respond quickly and significantly.

37. The impact of the pandemic has been erratic and random. We have to make sure that Victorians have the confidence that we can continue to support them through the difficult times.

38. The federal government took a similar approach earlier this year.

39. This bill will help fund the measures that were announced and that will be announced by the government. The funds from this bill will be vital to combat the health, economic and social challenges brought forth by coronavirus.

40. I commend the bill to the house.

Appropriation (Parliament) (Interim) Bill 2020

1. The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are unprecedented. The issues with coronavirus have completely altered the social and economic lives of many Victorians. Many Victorians are also feeling the health impacts of the pandemic.

2. Extraordinary times like these are forcing us to take extraordinary steps. There is nothing normal about the current circumstances, and hence it is impossible for the state to present a budget.

3. The bill provides the government with the authority to keep providing health and economic safety to Victorians during these times. From 1 July to 31 December 2020, the total appropriation authority sought in this bill is $116.1 million for Parliament.

4. Federal, state and territory governments have decided to delay their budgets this year, given the unpredictable situation this pandemic has put us in.

5. The coronavirus pandemic is a black swan event—an event which was unpredictable beyond what is normally expected of a situation and it has had severe consequences. There is no way the government can forecast the impact of the pandemic.

6. This bill provides appropriation authority for payment from the Consolidated Fund to the Parliament in respect of the first six months of the 2020–21 financial year.

7. This ensures that activities of the Parliament continue, and they are funded until a state budget for 2020–21 is presented.

8. The government has the intention of introducing the budget before the end of 2020.

9. The breadth of the social and economic disruptions created by the coronavirus crisis are unpredictable and unprecedented. However, the Victorian government is in a better position to tackle this crisis than many other governments around the world.

10. Coming into this crisis, Victoria had a strong balance sheet and a AAA credit rating, which means Victoria can take swift action against coronavirus.

11. This appropriation bill will be able to provide the government with the authority to keep responding to the crisis, keeping Victorians healthy and economically safe.

12. This bill will also help the day-to-day operations of the government.

13. For the first time, the funding for the Ombudsman, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Inspectorate will come within the financial responsibilities of the Parliament. This is an important move to budget independence for these agencies. These agencies were funded through the Department of Premier and Cabinet in 2019–20.

14. I commend the bill to the house.

State Taxation Acts Amendment (Relief Measures) Bill 2020

A. Introduction

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.