Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 8 Hansard (14 August) . .
Legislation (Penalty Units) Amendment Bill 2014
Debate resumed from 5 June 2014, on motion by Mr Corbell:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (8.46): Madam Deputy Speaker, here we go again: "Let us see if we can squeeze more out of Canberrans." Let me count the bills today that we have had to try and squeeze the blood out of taxpayers. What is it—"squeeze until they bleed, but not until they die".
We have had the budget. The government has voted on the budget, and what does that do? It puts up rates. It puts up a whole bunch of other fees and charges at about 10 per cent while CPI is just running at about 2.5 per cent. As we heard in the email that I read out from Norm, that is going to have an enormous effect on his household income—four times the rate of increase of his pension.
We then had the payroll tax; we are going to squeeze contractors. The Treasurer saw an opportunity to get more money out of contractors, and he has taken it. Instead of bringing in this tax change in a more measured way, as Mr Smyth tried to do through the amendment, he is going to grab it as quickly as we can. We have just seen a squeeze on people who own homes as investments, which ultimately is going to squeeze people at the bottom end of the housing market. It is a tax on home affordability. So it is a "squeeze until they bleed but not until they die" budget, in the payroll tax bill, in the land tax bill, and in this bill that we are debating here. Make no bones about it. There is no doubt, as I will explain tonight, that the singular motivation for putting up these penalty units at the rate that they are is to squeeze as much money as they can. We will not divide on this bill, but let me be very clear that that is what this bill is intended to do.
You will recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, that a similar bill was presented in June 2013 and was passed two months later. It went back to the introduction of the penalty unit system in 2001. At that time, the unit values were $100 for individuals and $500 for corporations. Until 2009 there had been no regular review regime for penalty unit values. It meant that there was something of a catch-up in 2009, when values were increased by 10 per cent to $110 and $550 respectively.
The 2013 bill took the initial values from 2001 and applied an indexing factor equal to the CPI from 2001, resulting in new values of $140 for individuals and $700 for corporations. The new values represented an increase of around 27 per cent on the 2009 values.
Whilst we welcomed the review because it brought penalty unit values up to date, the process demonstrated the government's inability to put those efficiencies to their best use. A penalty unit system allows an easy and efficient review mechanism to be adopted so their values do not diminish and the cost of doing crime does not become cheaper in real terms. But the government did not take up that opportunity when it introduced the penalty unit system. In essence, rather than doing a CPI review every
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