Govt wants broadband tax passed this year

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Govt wants broadband tax passed this year

Resurrects legislation.

The federal government has resurrected its heavily-delayed plan to introduce a broadband tax, with the laws expected to be in place before parliament wraps up for the year.

Plans to both introduce and pass the regional broadband scheme (RBS) charge bill were revealed in the government’s proposed laundry list of legislation released on Tuesday.

The tax, which was first proposed in December 2016, would see residential and business users of "NBN-equivalent" fixed line services slapped with a monthly fee of $7.10.

The proceeds would then be used by NBN Co to fund future costs of commercially unviable portions of its network - the satellite and fixed wireless footprints - and prevent future calls on the budget or public funds.

NBN users are not be expected to pay the tax because it is already built into the wholesale price they pay.

The legislation for the RBS charge was first introduced to parliament in mid-2017 and a senate committee recommended it be passed in mid-September the same year.

But nothing happened until August 2018, when Labor revealed it would conditionally support the legislation as long as the government agreed to several amendments, including capping the tax at $7.10 a month instead of $10.

“Labor will not be opposing these bills which together legislate certainty that premises in Australia can continue to access broadband services beyond the initial rollout,” Tasmanian Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk said last August.

“Given the current state of the economics of the NBN, it’s difficult for Labor to oppose this tax outright but we do consider its imposition to be highly unfortunate.”

In the April federal budget, the government reduced the cap from $10 to $7.10 per month, while introducing a “five-year exemption from the RBS for the first 55,000 greenfield premises activated on certain carriers’ networks”.

However the legislation automatically lapsed when parliament was dissolved in April for the federal election.

The plan to have legislation for the tax in place before the end of 2019 comes at a time when the government has given NBN Co an extra three years to repay its $19.5 billion loan to complete the network build.

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