Why not stop immigration, this will help our deficit?

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Zed Seselja recently released a new multicultural statement. This statement sets the strategic direction and priorities for multicultural policy in this country.

Australia is one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world. Cultural diversity is one of our greatest assets – sparking innovation, creativity and vitality. It has also strengthened our economy through diverse skills, knowledge and networks.

The Government recognises the importance of integration, mutual respect, and mutual responsibility – where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from, our prosperity.

Additionally English is and will remain our national language and is a critical tool for migrant integration – but our multilingual workforce is giving new opportunities for Australian businesses horizons and boosting our competitive edge.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australia’s diversity and prosperity continues, and the multicultural statement is key to that.

I encourage everyone to take a look at the statement and the accompanying inspirational videos and stories that reflect our multicultural Australia. You can view the statement and access the stories from www.dss.gov.au/settlement-and-multicultural-affairs.

The Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection recently announced we will strengthen Australian citizenship by putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements. The Government’s reforms will ensure applicants are competent in English, have been a permanent resident for at least four years and commit to embracing Australian values.

You can provide your views to the Government via email to the citizenship submissions mailbox at citizenship.submissions@border.gov.au with suggestions to the Government on changes to values and other citizenship test questions.

Why are we selling our coal and gas overseas? Where is our energy security?

 

In 2015-16 the coal industry was Australia's second largest export earner, with exports worth over $34 billion - almost twice that of beef, wheat, wool and wine combined.

In 2016–17 Australia’s coal exports were forecast to increase to $40 billion due to significant increases in coal prices since mid-2016.

Between 2007-08 and 2013-14 royalties and company taxes paid by the coal industry totalled almost $38 billion.

In 2015-16 the coal industry directly employed 44,000 people and paid over $5.7 billion in wages and salaries – it is a significant employer and economic activity generator in regional Queensland and NSW.

The Government’s priority is to deliver energy security and affordability as we transition to a lower emissions future. We must ensure the lights stay on and prices stay low for Australian households and businesses. The Government is taking a technology-neutral, non-ideological approach to emissions reduction.

The Government has already put measures in place on this issue. Firstly through the announcement in April of the Australian Domestic Gas Mechanism giving the Government the power to impose export controls on companies when there is a shortfall of gas supply in the domestic market.

Export restrictions will apply if LNG operators drain too much from the domestic market leading to a shortfall in domestic supply and an increase in prices. 

Secondly the Turnbull Government will start work on an electricity game-changer: the plan for the Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0.
 
This plan will increase the generation of the Snowy Hydro scheme by 50%, adding 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market - enough to power 500,000 homes.

This unprecedented expansion will help make renewables reliable, filling in holes caused by intermittent supply and generator outages. It will enable greater energy efficiency and help stabilise electricity supply into the future.

This will ultimately mean cheaper power prices and more money in the pockets of Australians.

 

Stop selling Australia!

I often get "told" to stop selling Australia. What people forget is the Government does not own many of the property or assets that they hear of in the media. For example if the Kidman family want to sell their farm, they are entitled to sell it to the highest bidder. Just like any Australian who owns an asset, your goal is to achieve the highest price. The Governments role is to ensure it is in the nation's best interest and security.

Foreign investment and foreign capital is vital for growth and innovation, and can contribute to the prosperity of businesses, communities and the Australian economy. Without foreign investment, production, employment and income would all be lower.

Under Australia’s foreign investment framework, foreign persons need to apply for foreign investment approval before purchasing residential real estate in Australia. The Government’s policy is to channel foreign investment into new dwellings, as this increases the total dwelling stock in which Australians can live as well as creating additional jobs in the construction industry and supporting economic growth.

Non-resident foreign persons are generally prohibited from purchasing established dwellings in Australia. However, reflecting the fact that foreign persons who are temporary residents need a place to live during their time in Australia, temporary residents can apply to purchase one established dwelling to use as a residence while they live in Australia. The purchase of an established dwelling in these circumstances is conditional on the foreign person selling the property when they leave Australia. Temporary residents cannot acquire established dwellings to rent out or for use as a holiday home.

From 1 December 2015, significant reforms to the foreign investment framework came into effect to improve monitoring and ensure that the rules that prohibit non-resident foreign investors from purchasing existing homes are more vigorously enforced.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) now has responsibility for the administration of the residential real estate functions of the foreign investment framework including compliance and enforcement functions. The ATO has the ability to data match across agencies including the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). The introduction of application fees also ensures that the cost of the system is no longer borne by the Australian taxpayer.

The ATO is now issuing letters to individuals and companies suspected to be involved in breaching the foreign investment framework and conducting investigations of property sales reported to them by the public. The ATO is also conducting random audits to identify properties which may have been acquired illegally.

As of February 2017, the Government had ordered the forced sale of 61 Australian residential properties, with a combined value of $107 million, held by foreign nationals in breach of the foreign investment framework.

The ATO has detected more than 570 foreign nationals who have breached the rules. This has resulted in forced sales, self-disposals, variations to previously approved FIRB applications and retrospective approvals with strict conditions. Breaches of these conditions will result in civil penalties or criminal prosecution.

Under the Government’s enhanced penalty regime the ATO has issued 388 penalty notices to foreign nationals in breach of the rules, attracting penalties of more than $2 million. Penalty notices have been issued to people who have failed to obtain FIRB approval before buying property as well as for breaching a condition of previously approved applications.

In terms of agriculture, the Coalition has increased scrutiny around foreign investment. From 1 March 2015, the screening threshold for agricultural land was lowered from $252 million to $15 million (cumulative).

There has also been an increased transparency on the levels of foreign ownership in Australia through a comprehensive land register. An agricultural land register with information provided directly to the ATO by investors commenced collections on 1 July 2015.

In contrast to the Government’s prudent approach, Labor’s intention is to dismantle the reforms we have made to ensure agricultural land and asset sales are not contrary to the national interest - they will allow the sale of Australian farms and agribusinesses without any meaningful scrutiny by the Australian Government, and without regard for the possible repercussions for rural communities and the national interest.

Labor’s Agricultural land threshold they announced would “liberalise” screening thresholds for the farm and food sectors, removing any meaningful screening by lifting the land threshold from $15 million cumulative to $50 million on a non-cumulative basis. This would mean any private foreign investor could buy Australian farms costing up to $50 million without any scrutiny, and do so again and again. – $50 million can buy a lot of agricultural land in Australia, for example 30,000 hectares in the Hunter valley, or 700,000 hectares of pastoral land in northern Australia.

The Coalition reforms to foreign investment thresholds for agricultural land and agribusiness are all about attracting foreign investment that is not contrary to the national interest, and giving the Australian community confidence in our oversight of that investment.

For more information please visit the Foreign Investment Review Board website at: www.firb.gov.au.

 

Why do I pay tax and the Multinationals get away with nothing?

Whilst I cannot list which companies are being targeted what I can say is this. Everyone, including multinational companies, has a responsibility to pay their fair share of tax in Australia on the profits they earn in Australia.

The Turnbull Government has already taken significant action to shut down loopholes and tackle tax avoidance head on. This includes introducing a strong Diverted Profits Tax and establishing a Tax Avoidance Taskforce in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The Diverted Profits Tax imposes a 40 per cent penalty tax rate on Australian profits artificially shifted offshore by large multinationals. Commencing on 1 July it will provide the ATO with a formidable new tool to stamp out multinational tax avoidance. The Turnbull Government’s legislation will prevent large corporates using schemes to avoid Australian taxation by transferring profits or assets offshore through related party transactions that lack economic substance.

In this financial year the ATO has already raised $2.9 billion in tax liabilities from seven large multinational companies, and the ATO expects more than $4 billion in total liabilities this financial year from large public groups and multinationals.

This action includes challenging global restructures that introduce debt into Australian corporate groups and shift profits to low or no tax jurisdictions, often in conjunction with intra-group non-arm’s length transactions.

A further $550 million has been raised in this financial year from action against avoidance by private companies, trusts, high wealth individuals and promoters of tax schemes.

These tough actions are further supported by the Multinational Anti Avoidance Law, legislation that Labor opposed. This legislation prevents large multinationals from using an ’operate here, bill overseas’ model to avoid a taxable presence in Australia.

Other important initiatives include the alignment of Australia’s transfer pricing laws with OECD recommendations, increased penalties for large multinationals that breach their tax disclosure obligations, and initiatives to improve corporate tax transparency.

The Multinational Anti Avoidance Law will be further strengthened in the Budget by extending it to corporate structures involving foreign partnerships and foreign trusts.

The Turnbull Government is taking action to address the significant, complex and growing economic and social problem of the black economy.

In December 2016, the Government established the Black Economy Taskforce to develop a whole-of government policy framework involving new proposals to tackle black economy activity.

The Government has released the Taskforce’s Interim report and accepted its recommendations for early action, including:

  • The extension of the Taxable Payment Reporting System (TPRS) to the courier and cleaning sectors.
  • A ban on the manufacture, distribution, possession, use or sale of sales suppression technology.

Following public consultation now in progress, the Taskforce will deliver a Final Report to the Government in October this year. The public are invited to make submissions at www.treasury.gov.au/blackeconomy.

Australia is also participating in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard that requires companies and governments to report annually on payments in the oil, gas and mining sectors.

In addition, the Government has legislated the Common Reporting Standard, which will provide tax authorities with information on individuals with offshore accounts located around the world.

These latest actions build on the Turnbull Government’s strong action to address multinational tax avoidance and to further the fight against serious and organised crime.

Parliamentary Pensions - the myths

There has been ongoing community debate about parliamentarians’ work expenses.  Australians are entitled to expect parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money wisely, appropriately and accountably.

That is why the Turnbull Government is undertaking the most comprehensive reforms to federal parliamentarians’ work expenses in a generation.

In February 2017, the Turnbull Government abolished the life gold travel pass for all parliamentarians, except former prime ministers. The life gold pass was a relic of a bygone era and did not meet community expectations so we have axed it.

Furthermore, the Government has transferred responsibility for monitoring and auditing parliamentarians’ work expenses to the new Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA). The IPEA will ensure that reports on parliamentarians’ expenses are released monthly to create a more transparent system.

In coming months, the Turnbull Government will also implement more of the recommendations of the Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System Review to further strengthen the accountability and transparency of parliamentarians’ work expenses.

Additionally contrary to what media coverage occasionally implies, most parliamentarians including myself are not entitled to a pension upon retirement or leaving Parliament.

The previous defined benefit parliamentary pension scheme, to which people refer, closed more than a decade ago.  In fact, any Member or Senator first elected since and including October 2004 is unable to access it. This includes both the current Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

Almost 90 per cent of Federal Parliamentarians are members of the new superannuation scheme that then took effect, under which superannuation benefits provided to parliamentarians are similar to many that apply throughout the community. 

These arrangements provide for the payment of monthly employer superannuation contributions during a parliamentarian’s term of office. No defined benefit pension is payable to them when they leave Parliament.

Over time, as the small number of MPs first elected prior to October 2004 decreases, the number of beneficiaries under the old pension scheme will be reduced to zero.

 

What is the Government doing about welfare cheats?

I often receive comments like “freeze the payments on welfare to every area and encourage these people to actually work for a living”…. If only if it were that simple. There are many various reasons people access Australia’s welfare system, many of whom do so through no fault of their own.

The Government’s position is to support those who need support whilst providing platforms and programs to help them get back on their feet and into some form of employment if they are able to.

The Government remains committed to ensuring the welfare system is fair and supports those who are genuinely in need.

In saying that, a more sustainable welfare system helps to guarantee these crucial services for current and future generations of Australians.

The Government has instituted a number of measures to strengthen the integrity of the welfare system by identifying and recovering overpayments.

In total, these integrity measures are expected to return around $4 billion to the Budget in cash terms by 2021, and will help to ensure the sustainability of Australia’s welfare system.

The Government will simplify and streamline the welfare system by introducing a new JobSeeker Payment which will consolidate seven existing income support payments.

The new JobSeeker Payment will make the welfare system easier for people to navigate and will deliver a fairer social welfare system by ensuring that people in similar circumstances receive similar support.

The best way to get the welfare budget under control is to get Australians back to work. The new JobSeeker Payment better reflects the expectation that working age people with a capacity to work should be in employment, looking for work or improving their skills to gain employment.

The Government is creating clearer mutual obligation requirements for working-age welfare recipients and increasing support to help them find employment.

Clearer rules that can be properly monitored and enforced will assist people to prepare for, search for and secure employment.

Work for the Dole continues to be a cornerstone of the mutual obligation system. The Government is streamlining the administration of the program and ensuring it provides participants with the skills employers want, while giving back to the community. I note you disagree however it is a program we are continuing to support.

A new, targeted Job Seeker Compliance Framework will commence from 1 July 2018 and will apply stronger penalties for those who deliberately and persistently fail to turn up for job interviews or take suitable work while ensuring that genuinely disadvantaged and vulnerable job seekers are supported.

Additionally the Government is delivering on its commitment to support 120,000 young Australians to get into work. The Youth Jobs PaTH program is assisting young Australians to get a job by providing them with practical pre-employment training, and with real work experience through internships. Businesses are also being encouraged to hire young job seekers through wage subsidies.

 

Please note the Government announcement 16 Feb 2017

The announcement of $9.5 million from the foreign aid budget was for the third phase of SPRINT, which Australian Governments have funded since September 2007. This funding reinforces our longstanding commitment to addressing the needs of women and girls in humanitarian crisis/natural disaster situations.

SPRINT provides access to safe birthing, family planning services, HIV prevention and treatment, protection against sexual violence and assistance to survivors of rape and violence in crisis-affected places. 

Sexual and reproductive health services are critical to reducing maternal and child mortality. SPRINT assists vulnerable people in crisis to access a minimum standard of sexual and reproductive health services, which include clinical services for safe birthing (e.g. clean delivery birthing kits, setting up of maternity wards, emergency obstetric care).

These services are helping women and girls to stay healthy, remain in education, and participate equally in society and the economy.

The Australian aid program, including the SPRINT program, supports the same range of sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries as are available in Australia, subject to the laws of those countries.

Australia does not support or fund sex-selective abortion. 

Additionally the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is not eligible and does not receive any Australian aid funding contrary to what is currently being publicised on various internet sites.

The sale of the Kidman station.

The Kidman station is a privately owned property. Like any Australian property owner, the Kidman family are entitled to review expressions of interest on the sale of their property. As per my comments made in the press on Friday 28 Oct 2016 when asked about the current pending offer on the Kidman estate.

"That’s a matter for the Kidman family to make a decision on who their top bidder is and who their purchaser is going to be. If there are foreign investment implications from that decision, then that will be considered by the Government in due course. On two occasions I rejected the foreign investment applications for previous bids. I’m pleased to see that there are now a number of Australian bids for this iconic empire. It’s now up to the Kidman family to make a decision on how they want to proceed and the Government will take it from there, if the Government is required at all to consider any of those matters."
Please also consider my comments regarding the first application for sale on the Kidman property on 29 April 2016

PRELIMINARY DECISION OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT APPLICATION FOR PURCHASE OF S. KIDMAN & CO LIMITED

As part of my long and careful deliberations regarding the acquisition by foreign investors of S. Kidman and Co. Limited, consistent with the formal process required, I have today informed the investor that my preliminary view of the proposal that has been put to me is contrary to the national interest.
 
Australia welcomes foreign investment, however we must be confident that this investment is not contrary to the national interest. Australians must have confidence in how we regulate foreign investment, to ensure continued support for foreign investment that is critical to our economy in providing jobs and growth. This is a relevant consideration.
 
On 15 April I exercised my statutory discretion to extend the period in which I have to review this application. I did this in order to provide me with sufficient time to consider this complex case. Without this extension I would have been required to have made a decision that week. This additional time has assisted me in forming my preliminary view.
 
The Kidman land portfolio is the largest private land holding in Australia. The Kidman portfolio holds approximately 1.3 per cent of Australia's total land area, and 2.5 per cent of Australia's agricultural land. Even after the excision of Anna Creek and The Peake properties, Kidman will still be Australia's largest private land owner and hold over 1 per cent of Australia's total land area, and 2 per cent of Australia's agricultural land.
 
Given the size and significance of the Kidman portfolio I am concerned that the acquisition of an 80 per cent interest in S. Kidman & Co Limited by Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd (Dakang) may be contrary to the national interest. I have today made my concerns known to the applicant and provided them with a natural justice period in which they may respond and consider how they wish to proceed. The applicant shall have until next Tuesday 3 May 2016 to respond.
 
I have concerns that the form in which the Kidman portfolio has been offered as a single aggregated asset, has rendered it difficult for Australian bidders to be able to make a competitive bid. The size of the asset makes it difficult for any single Australian group to acquire the entire operation.
 
On 20 April I commissioned an external and independent Review of the Kidman sale process to examine market integrity issues around the Kidman sale process so that I could be fully informed. The Review, conducted by Professor Graeme Samuel AC, was tasked with providing advice on whether the competitive bid process offered fair opportunity to Australian bidders to participate.
 
The Review contains sensitive commercial in confidence material which precludes its release. While the review found the sale process followed a satisfactory commercial practice that offered opportunity to Australian parties to make an offer, the review also found there remains significant domestic interest in Kidman.
 
I outlined my concerns in my announcement and decision on Kidman on 19 November 2015. I noted then that the size and significance of the total portfolio of Kidman properties in the proposed form as a single composite property asset was not in the national interest. I am not yet satisfied these concerns have been addressed by the revised proposal that has been submitted to me.
 
The size and significance of the portfolio, combined with the impact the decision may have on broader Australian support for foreign investment in Australian agriculture, must also be taken into account in this case.
 
The Turnbull Government welcomes foreign investment where it is consistent with our national interests. However, we must always ensure it is on our own terms. There are not too many jurisdictions anywhere in the world where foreign acquisition of large holdings would be permitted.
 
As Treasurer I have approved many significant foreign investment proposals and I consider each on its merits. Foreign investment has underpinned the development of our nation and we must continue to attract the strong inflows of foreign capital that our economy requires. Without foreign capital and investment, Australia's output, employment and standard of living would all be lower.
 
Foreign investment rules facilitate such investment while giving assurance to the community that the investment is being made in a way which ensures that Australia's national interest is protected We will continue to welcome and support foreign investment that is not contrary to our national interest.
What has the Government's done to improve the review process on Foreign Investment?

As Treasurer I have announced many changes to bolster foreign investment rules.

  • Formal requirements on foreign investment applications to ensure multinational companies investing in Australia pay tax here on what they earn;
  • Greater compliance powers for the Australian Taxation Office and strict new penalties for those caught breaking the rules;
  • A new agricultural land foreign ownership register and reduction of the screening threshold for proposed foreign purchases of agricultural land by private investors to $15 million;
  • FIRB screening of direct interests in agribusinesses valued at $55 million or more;
  • The appointment of Mr David Irvine (a former Director General of both the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service) to the FIRB, bolstering the Board’s ability to advise on national security issues;
  • Appointment of Mr Peever to the FIRB (retired as Managing Director of Rio Tinto Australia in October 2014 after 27 years with the company and recent chair of the Minister of Defence’s First Principle Review of Defence);
  • Forced sales of 27 properties, worth more than $76 million, illegally acquired by foreign nationals.
What's the Government's position on live animal exports?

I understand that animal welfare is of great concern to the Australian community — no one supports animal cruelty, least of all farmers and all those reliant on the trade. But equally no one wants to see our farmers and others involved in rural industries suffer hardship because there is no market for their livestock.

The livestock export industry is a key agricultural industry for Australia. The trade is important for Australian farmers generally and more particularly for certain sectors, such as the northern Australia beef industry, and the government is absolutely committed to ensuring its ongoing viability.

Livestock exports are a small but vital part of our overall meat trade.  Australia processes significant volumes of meat onshore for export and the government is always seeking new markets for boxed meat, however, for some foreign markets, live exports remain the preferred or most practical solution and in some parts of Australia processing facilities are not commercially viable.

While many markets are now demanding more boxed or carcass meat as standards of living improve and access to refrigeration increases, there are still some countries that retain their preference for live animals. Australia’s livestock export industry is a key player in meeting this market demand.

A move to transition from livestock exports to onshore processing is a commercial decision for processors and the livestock industry more broadly. In the absence of a viable processing industry in the north and in the face of continuing strong demand for Australian livestock, a ban on live exports would have serious economic and social implications for farmers in northern and western Australia and the communities that rely on the trade.

Contrary to assertions by some, banning the live export trade does not increase demand for Australian boxed meat; rather, such a ban only forces our trading partners to source livestock from other nations with no animal welfare standards whilst also threatening thousands of Australian jobs in the process.        

The live export industry provides more than 10,000 jobs across rural and regional Australia, and underpins returns back to the farm gate, domestic cattle and sheep prices and the sustainability of regional communities.

Australia has high animal welfare and production standards which are unparalleled by any other country. Very unusually amongst livestock exporting nations, Australia seeks to ensure international animal welfare standards are met throughout the entire supply chain.

The introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) has resulted in many overseas facilities improving their animal handling practices and upgrading their facilities. This regulatory approach has also resulted in improved animal welfare outcomes well beyond Australian sourced livestock. The Department of Agriculture is the regulator for the livestock export trade and investigates all complaints alleging breaches of the ESCAS. Information on investigations and their outcomes is published on the department’s website here.

The regulatory framework for livestock exports is designed to minimise risk and provides a mechanism to deal with issues when they occur. It also provides stability for the industry, and the families and communities that depend on the trade.

Ensuring the health and welfare of Australian animals that are exported continues to be a key issue for the Australian Government, and in line with the expectations of the Australian community we remain committed to ensuring that animal welfare outcomes are not compromised.

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