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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 4154..


That leave of absence be given to Ms Gallagher (Deputy Chief Minister) for this sitting.

Standing orders—suspension

Motion (by Mr Corbell )—by leave—agreed to:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the adjournment debate for today continuing past 30 minutes.

Question resolved in the affirmative, with the concurrence of an absolute majority.

Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Bill 2006

Debate resumed from 12 December 2006, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (11.44): Mr Mulcahy has to attend to something fairly urgently on this particular bill. I will allow him to give the opposition position in relation to it.

There has been a lot of controversy in relation to this. There have been a lot of issues in relation to the government's general budget and the huge impost on the community as a result of that—indeed an extra 40 per cent in rates, charges and taxes to the average household and 60 per cent for many businesses. All these additional costs really impact on our community.

We have had a lot of debate recently in relation to school closures. That certainly has impacted hugely on people. I think some of these other charges and taxes are sleepers. A lot of people have already seen the increases in their rates. Battlers in Isabella Plains and places like Charnwood have seen their rates go up by 40 per cent. This additional charge will lead to, on some estimates, up to an extra $137 per household if it is all actually passed on.

This is one of the two bills where there are some significant potential legal problems. I was interested to hear a Telstra representative some four or five weeks ago on the ABC indicate that there may well be legal action in relation to this. I will be very interested to hear what the Treasurer says in relation to that.

This certainly could be one of the areas where the government indeed finds itself in some difficulty. It was an issue I also raised about four or five months ago in relation to a number of cases where this type of tax could be problematic. I think that, at the time, the Treasurer was fairly confident that it may not have legs and that it may well be another tax like the water abstraction charge where he may face greater difficulties. I understand that Queanbeyan City Council might be taking action there.

This was certainly one of the two where there were, at face value, some legal difficulties. I was certainly interested in the Treasurer's response to that at the time. I


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