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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (12 February) . . Page.. 290..

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (12.07): Mr Speaker, before we begin this debate, would it be possible-and I know I am requesting this at a late stage-to consider order of the day No 1 and order of the day No 2 cognately? I assume that exactly the same arguments can be made in respect of both bills. Indeed, the bills are the result of another piece of legislation being divided. I assume the bills will be voted on in the same way.

MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate executive business order of the day No 1 and order of the day No 2 cognately? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I apologise to members for the late notice. It was suggested that we should consider the legislation in this way, given, I suspect, that the same arguments will be used for both bills. I suspect there will be support generally for both bills to get up. So with that in mind, Mr Speaker, the Canberra Liberals will support the Rates Bill 2003 and the Land Tax Bill 2003.

I will talk to the Rates Bill first. This bill represents a further important step in the development of legislation that applies in the ACT. This development involves a combination of using contemporary language, as far as it is appropriate, incorporating modern terminology and drafting practices, and resolving difficulties with amendments and other changes that may have resulted in inconsistencies in the existing legislation. Drafting exercises such as this are a major project and the opposition commends the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for their efforts in achieving the draft legislation that we are considering today.

The Rates Bill properly separates from the land tax regime in the ACT the policy framework and administration of the rating system for the ACT. As the Treasurer noted in his tabling comments, the concept of rating policy is entirely different from the concept of land tax policy. Put simply, rates are imposed on the basis of ownership of a parcel of land while land tax is imposed on the basis of the use to which a parcel of land is put.

Mr Speaker, the Rates Bill deals with a major source of revenue for the ACT budget in 2003-04, and indeed in every year. In this year the ACT will generate around $120 million from general rates, or around 5 per cent of the estimated revenue for this year. As a consequence, this is a most important bill and it is crucial that this legislation be as clear and concise as possible.

A basic premise about all legislation that the Legislative Assembly passes is that people who are intended to be the subject of particular legislation must be able to understand their rights and obligations arising from that legislation. Clearly with legislation that is as significant as this bill, it is imperative that our community be able to understand all the elements of our rating regime. I believe that this bill is a sound outcome and will enhance our community's appreciation of the broad approach of the rating regime and of the intricacies of this regime.

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