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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 6 June 2006) . . Page.. 1794 ..

Incorporated document

Attachment 1

Document incorporated by the Chief Minister

Mr Speaker, the Rates Amendment Bill 2006 (the Bill) amends the Rates Act 2004 (the Rates Act) to allow for the introduction of a Fire and Emergency Services Levy.

The 2006-07 ACT Budget introduces a Fire and Emergency Service Levy to ensure that the costs associated with the provision of fire and emergency services can be better met by the Territory. Significant investment in upgrading and improving emergency services has occurred over recent years, driven by local events such as the Canberra bushfires of 2003 and national priorities such as anti-terrorism measures. The cost of emergency services has increased from $45.9 million in 2001-02 to about $75 million in 2005-06, an increase of about $29.1 million or 63%.

Mr Speaker, this Bill provides the legislative framework for the imposition of the Fire and Emergency Services Levy, which is expected to raise $20 million toward the provision of fire and emergency services in 2006-07.

The Fire and Emergency Services Levy will be imposed on all rateable residential and commercial properties from 1 July 2006. For residential properties a fixed charge of $84 per property will apply. The Bill includes a pensioner rebate of 50 per cent of the fixed charge for all pensioners who are eligible for a rebate of rates under the Rates Act. For rateable commercial properties, the levy will be imposed as a percentage of the average unimproved value of the property. By linking the levy to rateable land, the existing exemptions in the Rates Act that apply to groups such as charitable organisations, hospitals and schools will also apply to the levy.

Mr Speaker, the levy will be billed as part of rates notices, with access to all of the payment options that currently exist for rates. This means that the levy can be paid on, or before, the due date with the existing three per cent discount, or by quarterly instalments. In addition, an eligible property owner who is entitled to defer their rates liability, will also be entitled to defer their liability for the levy.

The Bill also ensures that the levy is a charge upon the land and therefore is recoverable by the Commissioner for ACT Revenue in the same way as rates. As with rates, interest will be imposed on overdue amounts for each calendar month, or part thereof, that the amount remains unpaid.

As this legislation commences on 1 July 2006, it is necessary to bring forward the debate on the Bill to Thursday, 8 June 2006. The Government acknowledges that this provides limited time for Members to get across the detail contained in the Bill, but asks Members for their cooperation to ensure that this important revenue measure, which will contribute to the provision of fire and emergency services in the ACT, can commence on 1 July 2006.

Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

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