It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to the State Taxation and Treasury Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. Pleasingly, this bill builds on the Andrews Labor government’s record of implementing a progressive tax system in this state. As was so eloquently put by Ms Taylor earlier in the debate, we have proudly cut or abolished taxes and fees 57 times across the budget—57 times. It is important that we understand and that we underline those numbers, because what we hear opposite on many occasions is something completely different. Ms Taylor, I think, again, very eloquently dismantled Mr Davis’s assertions about new taxes and where they apply. I mean, fancy counting on six occasions a tax that applies to foreign ownership—six times. It does not affect one Victorian, yet this is the sort of stuff that we get built into this debate.
I am very happy if Dr Bach or anybody else on that side of the chamber wants to have a debate about integrity—integrity when it comes to managing the state, integrity when it comes to the taxation system and integrity when it comes to facts around a particular issue that is being debated in this chamber or anywhere else. We are very, very happy to have those debates, because I think the facts speak for themselves that on 57 occasions we have cut or abolished taxes and fees—57 times, on 57 occasions. And it is important that we introduce those facts and that we ensure that people do not twist and turn it and manufacture things for their own political objectives in the debate. So if we want to stray down the path of integrity, I am very happy to have that debate.
Dr Bach: Ms Taylor’s at fault. She strayed; I followed her.
Mr GEPP: Yes. No, no. I understand Ms Taylor opened the door, and I understand that the opposition walked through it. I understand you meandered down that pathway. I am just saying let us continue down it—let us hold hands and walk down that path a little bit more—because I am happy to debate integrity. In fact why don’t we turn wacky Wednesday into integrity debating day tomorrow? Let us have a whole day of debating about integrity instead of some of the more colourful and interesting things that we will be dealing with tomorrow that will not have any shred of impact on this state except to say that we can acquit another day in this place.
One of the things that Ms Watt and Ms Taylor both talked about—and I think this is a really important development under this bill—is the motor vehicle duty. I want to commend Mr Barton, who spoke earlier in this debate. He touched on one of the key measures in this bill, which is the introduction of the exemptions for wheelchair-accessible commercial vehicles from motor vehicle duty. I think it is some $3000, and there is a whole range of criteria that spells out exactly what that means for certain categories of vehicles et cetera, depending on the age of the vehicle et cetera, but it is a really, really important feature of this legislation. It should not go unnoticed, and I am sure it will not. But it is a really important progressive change to our taxation. The measure alone will save eligible wheelchair-accessible commercial passenger vehicles thousands of dollars in motor vehicle duty and will help ensure that we have better services provided to wheelchair users and particularly to those that make more than 1 million commercial passenger vehicle trips per year. I want to congratulate Mr Barton. Mr Barton said in his contribution that we might not hear about his advocacy every day in this place.
I am certain that we probably as a chamber do not hear from Mr Barton every day, but I know from talking to colleagues in government that Mr Barton is talking to somebody in government every single day about these measures. It is through that sort of advocacy that we see these sorts of changes introduced, so congratulations to Mr Barton and to the commercial passenger vehicle owners in terms of this very, very important reform.
Ms Taylor also spoke about the land tax for the specialist disability accommodation dwellings under construction. In building on taxation changes that we have already made to support Victorians with a disability, the bill provides an exemption from land tax for land on which a specialist disability accommodation enrolled dwelling is being constructed. This construction phase exemption will be available for a maximum two tax years and will operate retrospectively from the 2020 land tax year onwards. An SDA-enrolled dwelling has been specially designed to cater for the needs of people with sensory, intellectual, cognitive or physical impairment, and an SDA resident is someone who is an NDIS participant residing in an SDA-enrolled dwelling and who receives an SDA payment as part of their plan. Although the exemption has been available since the 2020 tax year on land that is occupied or available for occupation as an SDA-enrolled dwelling, that exemption was not extended to land in the construction phase. That was particularly out of step, and that has been addressed.
Ms Taylor also talked about the windfall gains tax exemption for universities, and I will not go into all of those details again.
I do want to, however, spend a little bit of time on payroll tax, because in my electorate of Northern Victoria we have had the Leader of the Opposition in particular running around all manner of different places. And we have had the Leader of The Nationals in the other place, the member for Murray Plains, out there in the public arena saying that we have done nothing for regional Victoria since we have been in government. It is simply not true. I talked at the start of my contribution about integrity. Let us be truthful. Let us be truthful in terms of the things that we are out there saying. We now have an unemployment rate in this state, in regional Victoria, with a 3 in front of it. You do not get there by accident. You get there through hard work, you get there through reform, you get there through investment, and that is exactly what we have done. The Minister for Small Business, who is in the chamber, is regularly seen in my electorate making all manner of different announcements—
Ms Pulford: Heading there on Friday.
Mr GEPP: Yes, you are, Minister, heading there on Friday. She is making all manner of announcements, but importantly working closely with the small business community. We understand the contribution that small business makes to our economy, and working closely with those people to ensure that they are making the necessary investments to grow our economy in the regional space is so, so important because of the contribution that they make to local employment. We get it. We understand it. We are in there every single day talking and working with small businesses either individually or with their associations, as well as with local councils et cetera, and ensuring that we have got a pipeline of investment, a pipeline of support going to regional Victoria. That is how you get a 3 in front of unemployment in regional Victoria. So it is not true. I have heard the contributions that have been made here today by those opposite about us having left regional Victoria behind. It is rubbish. It is baloney. It is simply not true. It is not a fact. It is a figment of their imagination because it does not suit their narrative. Only a few weeks ago they were out there talking about this great, big campaign platform: ‘We’re going to reform regional roads. We’re going to have this big emphasis on regional roads. Send us a message if your regional road is bad’. And what have they got on the picture? Where was the picture taken? It was a road in Ukraine.
They just make it up.
Ms Pulford: The centre of the theatre of war in the world.
Mr GEPP: They just make it up; that is exactly right. It is the central focus of war on the planet right now, and they use one of its roads as their centrepiece, as their image, as their graphic about regional roads. They will do and say anything in order to fit their political narrative. Be honest. That is all you have to do—just be honest; be factual and be honest.
On payroll tax both Mr Davis and Mr Rich-Phillips tried to compare different aspects of the Victorian economy with other parts of the nation and pointed out—when it suited them—where it is not favourable for the government. Well, what about payroll tax? They stand up in this place time and time again or they run around in regional Victoria, particularly in my electorate of Northern Victoria—they seem to spend a lot of time up there in Northern Victoria, and that is probably because they performed so badly and they neglected it for so long. When they had the chance to do something in Northern Victoria, they did not do anything—they just neglected it. The Leader of the National Party, whose own electorate is in Northern Victoria—what did he do when he was in the last government? He did nothing; he did absolutely nothing. We heard recently that—
Dr Bach: On a point of order, Acting President, previous occupants of the chair have regularly ruled that debates such as this are not opportunities to attack specific members. This has been, as you have said, a wideranging debate. Nonetheless, other members have not taken the opportunity to gratuitously attack other members of this place, so I would humbly submit to you, sir, that perhaps Mr Gepp could come back to the bill instead of attacking members.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem): Thank you, Dr Bach. Mr Gepp, I am happy to hear you on the point of order. I was about to rule in your favour.
Mr GEPP: Further to the point of order, Acting President, Ms Taylor opened the door to talking about integrity and Dr Bach walked straight through it. I am just pointing out the lack of integrity in the debate around these particular matters out there in the electorate.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem): I ruled earlier—actually when you were on your feet, Dr Bach, when Mr Gepp raised a point of order—that it is a wideranging debate and everybody has referred to various governments and prime ministers and opposition leaders.
Mr GEPP: Thank you, Acting President. The Leader of the Opposition just a few short weeks ago was up in Mildura holding hands with a fellow member from Northern Victoria, who probably would have needed to set her Navman—either that or I suspect she probably flew up there—and standing there out the front of Mildura hospital, beaming. ‘We will do this if we are elected’, they said. ‘We commit three quarters of a billion dollars to rebuild the Mildura hospital’. Do you think the local people up there have forgotten who privatised the thing in the first place, who sucked all of the money they could out of that place and sent services to the floor? It was the Liberals and Nationals. So if you want integrity in a debate, at least have a small whiff of integrity on your own side.
When it comes to payroll tax, we now have the lowest payroll tax in this country for regional Victoria—1.2125 per cent. It is a quarter of the metropolitan rate, it is the lowest in the nation and it underscores that this government is absolutely committed to regional Victoria. It is absolutely committed to northern Victoria in my electorate. We work hard every single day with businesses and with local communities to deliver quality projects, quality investment and growth in employment while reducing taxes, reducing fees and ensuring that livability standards are going north, not south. We are proud of that. I am proud of this bill. It is a very good bill. I commend the Treasurer, and I commend this bill to the house.