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Land Tax Amendment Bill 2020

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Tags: Treasury, COVID-19, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, we will be supporting the Land Tax Amendment Bill 2020. We recognise that it amends Division 2 of the Land Tax Act to include an extra exemption for commercial land in next financial year.

We also acknowledge that this amendment bill gives the Commissioner for State Revenue significant discretion in assessing applications for land tax relief. While there are provisions in this amendment that the commissioner has to be satisfied the land is commercial land and that the commercial landowner has been adversely impacted, as Mr O'Byrne pointed out and as the legislation and the second reading speech make clear, there is broad discretion on the part of the Commissioner for State Revenue to administer the exemption. I think it is unlikely that of the 8000 individuals or entities that now pay commercial land tax in Tasmania all of them will apply or be eligible but I believe the parliament should be given an indicative cost of this to the budget bottom line. I listened to Mr O'Byrne's headline figure of $35 million potentially but is that not if they max out the entire commercial land tax budget?

I wanted to ask a question about the provision in the bill under commencement. Clause 2 - Commencement - says the act commences on the day on which this act receives Royal Assent but, if it does not receive Royal Assent by 1 July 2020 this act is taken to have commenced on 1 July 2020.


I have a clarification question because when you go to the Acts Interpretation Act 1931, section 5(1) says, 'The word Act used in relation to a legislative enactment, shall include all Acts and ordinances which have been duly made and passed by the Parliament of Tasmania or by any council or authority empowered to make and pass laws in Tasmania, and to which assent has been duly given by or on behalf of the Sovereign.'.

When you go to section 9(2) of the Acts Interpretation Act it says, 'every Act to which the Royal Assent has been given by the Governor for or on behalf of the Sovereign before the commencement of section 8 of the Acts Interpretation Amendment Act 1981 shall, unless the contrary intention appears in the first-mentioned Act, be deemed to have come into operation on the day on which that Act received the Royal Assent.'.

Then in section 9(3A) it says, 'Despite subsection (3), if the provision of an Act provides that the Act or a portion of the Act commences on a day, or a day or days, to be proclaimed, that provision and the provision providing for the short title of the Act come into operation on the day on which the Act receives the Royal Assent unless the Act expressly provides otherwise.'.

Can the minister confirm that the Acts Interpretation Act has been applied here and that the commencement date conforms with section 9(3A) of the Acts Interpretation Act? Given that the minister is not listening I hope his advisers are.

Mr Ferguson - I am listening.

Ms O'CONNOR - What did I just ask you? It is all fine, minister. I am curious about the commencement day which makes it clear that if this amendment bill has not received the Royal Assent by 1 July it is taken to have come into effect by 1 July but it will not have received Royal Assent, so by the usual measure of when an act becomes law this act potentially does not. I just did a shallow dive into the Acts Interpretation Act and would like some clarity on that commencement date.

Over the past three months this parliament has been called on to do things that it has never had to consider, let alone undertake before, and despite some of the politics that sat over this place in more recent days I think this parliament should be quite satisfied with the work we have done collaboratively to try to reach as many Tasmanians who have been hurting as a result of the pandemic response. I know we are dealing with a conservative government but there has been a distinct overlay of sound socialist principles to the decisions that have been made about policy adjustments and the allocation of public funding in order to minimise or mitigate harm caused by events outside the control of every Tasmanian business, every Tasmanian in the tourism or hospitality sector or small business sector who lost their jobs.

I acknowledge that the Premier has been adaptive to changing circumstances and needs and there have been moves that have the support of this parliament. In fact it was a Greens amendment to the first COVID bill that helped us make sure there was a freeze on rent increases and there was subsequently a freeze placed on evictions. The Premier has made sure there is extra relief funding there for the homelessness sector and a rent relief fund has been established which was advocated for by the Tenants' Union of Tasmania and the Greens. We are seeing that this parliament has been called on to try to identify those areas that are hurting and clearly, businesses and the commercial sector are hurting, and they are the businesses that have had to let people go.

I want to acknowledge at this point that a very significant amount of the harm caused by the pandemic has been felt by young people who are in casual and part-time work and by women. Particularly for young people right now, most of them have lost their part-time employment, many are not eligible for Commonwealth support, most were not working long enough to be eligible for JobKeeper and those who are studying are having to do so online without contact with teachers, lecturers and other students as part of a learning community.

This parliament needs to pause for a moment and think about how hard young Tasmanians are having it right now. I know this is being felt right across the community but I have not spoken to a young person in months who has worked, and while they are sitting at home worrying about their future, they also have their eyes on the Arctic, which hit 38 degrees Celsius this week. For our young people, I hope every member of this parliament every single day we are in here always has them front of mind, because they have quite understandably formed the view that they have been shafted.

This legislation provides emergency relief to businesses. I know there is a set of tests that the Commissioner for State Revenue will apply when assessing an application for land tax relief next financial year, but would, for example, the owners of short-stay accommodation properties potentially be eligible?

Mr Ferguson - They're not expected to be, no.

Ms O'CONNOR - What about primary producers, particularly potentially foreign companies?

Mr Ferguson - I'll come back to you on that, but it will be on the basis of what is commercial land and not residential.

Ms O'CONNOR - The Farrell family?

Mr Ferguson - I'll come back to you but I won't be going into individual instances; that wouldn't be appropriate.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, well, casino owners?

Mr Ferguson - I'll come back to you.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, thank you. As we know, Madam Speaker, it is a matter of great regret that the pokies venues will be open again on Friday and that opportunity that too many low-income Tasmanian families had to put the money they received into food, clothing, their children's education will evaporate. I read somewhere that over the course of the three-month period while those pokies dens have been closed, Tasmanians have saved in the vicinity of $40 million. That is $40 million that was going back into the community, children's education and recreational opportunities, and on Friday it is all over. That is a social tragedy and an economic tragedy too, because that is $40 million that will not be going to small businesses or circulating the economy - it will go straight into the Farrell family's Sydney bank account.

With those few words I will park and look forward to other contributions and the minister's reply.