BILL: Budget Measures

Today Mark outlined the Greens support for the Government's Budget Measures Bill. 

Statutes Amendment (Budget Measures) Bill 2019

It is a little unusual for members to speak to a bill effectively on the same day that it is introduced, but the Government had put this on the Notice Paper before the winter break; it is just that the minister had not delivered his second reading speech. Given the identical speech was made in the lower house, I had no problem in preparing some very brief notes to address this bill today so as to efficiently deal with the matters before the house.

The Statutes Amendment (Budget Measures) Bill in most recent years has had a number of contentious items in it. We could take a trip down memory lane and we could look at car parking taxes and all manner of things that have been in budget measures bills. This year it is a disappointing offering from the Government with not a whole lot to tax us, and I would be surprised if it takes a great deal of time through this chamber. There are only a handful of issues. The big-ticket item, of course, that is not in here is land tax, but we will spend more than enough time, I expect, debating that in coming weeks and months.

In terms of the Budget Measures Bill before us, the first issue that is raised is in relation to what is often called 'voluntary taxation', that is, the amounts of money that we pay to the state when we behave badly on the roads, in particular going through red lights or driving faster than the speed limit. This Budget Measures Bill does propose to increase the penalties for some of the more serious of those traffic offences, such as driving more than 30 km/h or even more than 45 km/h over the designated speed limit. The Greens support this measure and measures like this that help discourage bad behaviour on the roads.

As an aside, I note that, as fines in this and other areas get bigger and bigger, the Greens are sympathetic to this parliament having a proper look at income-based fine regimes, the idea being that a fine, whether it is $500 or $1000, might be pocket money to a wealthy person. They just pull the banknotes out of their wallet or they wave their card and the matter is disposed of, but for a person on a very low income these substantial fines have a major impact on their take-home income.

That said, it is a form of voluntary taxation that you do not need to pay if you do not drive too fast or you do not go through red lights. I am not proposing to raise this as an issue in this bill, but I am just putting on the record that the Greens would like this Parliament at some stage to investigate income-based fines. I appreciate that there are practical difficulties for a state government that does not have the same access to financial data that the federal government has, and I also understand that there are potential unintended consequences where incredibly wealthy people on paper appear to be quite poor if we just take their income tax records as an indication of their ability to pay fines. Anyway, that is an aside.

The bill proposes to increase penalties for serious speeding offences, and the Greens support that. The bill also proposes to deal with what I understand is a growing trend for the operators of commercial vehicle fleets to not name the driver, to pay a corporate fee, but in the process ensure that the guilty driver does not have any demerit points chalked up against his or her name and therefore risk losing their licence as a result of a speeding offence or other traffic offences committed in a work vehicle, often on work time. I think it is a—I will call it a loophole—that deserves to be plugged and the Greens support increasing the corporate fee.

I would have thought that the operators of fleet vehicles almost inevitably know exactly who was driving. It would be a very rare corporation where people can go into a yard, take a vehicle out driving and no-one knows who it is, what car they have taken or when it was brought in and brought back. I think that information is universally available in relation to corporate fleets, and I support the idea of a corporate fee that is serious enough that the operators of those fleets will prefer instead to name the guilty party so that they do suffer some personal consequences for their bad driving.

The third area of the bill relates to again I think some loopholes in the Mining Act, in particular where the owners of freehold land were being reimbursed some of the fees that they were paying. Where the owner of that land is in fact the mining company itself, that reimbursement of fees makes no sense, and I understand that the intent of this bill is to make sure that those payments are not made.

I appreciate the briefing that I was offered by Treasury officials. I think there were six or seven in total, which seemed a lot for a very thin bill, but it just shows the level of specialisation in the department. I did ask one question in relation to whether the environment department is ever compensated for mining activities on National Parks and Wildlife Act reserve lands.

My understanding is that they are not. I think that is something that we need to look at again. I will consider whether there are appropriate questions in committee in relation to that. Generally, the additional fees that are sought to be covered under the Mining Act in relation to assessing and reviewing programs for environmental protection and rehabilitation are supported, and so too is the other loophole that the bill seeks to close. With these brief comments, the Greens will be supporting the Statutes Amendment (Budget Measures) Bill.