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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (8 June) . . Page.. 1919..

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Executive business-precedence

Ordered that executive business be called on.

Rates Amendment Bill 2006

Debate resumed from 6 June 2006, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.06): I have a few words to say in relation to this bill. It has obviously been the subject of considerable interest in the community since this all came to light earlier in the week. I have the view that this bill is bad economics. It represents bad decision- making and it certainly represents bad governance. There is a clear absence of detailed justification of the need to raise another $20 million through this levy for fire and emergency services. This simply has not been provided. It has not been discussed in detail. Certainly the normal process with this matter, which is that that would be part of the budget process and taken before the estimates committee, is being bypassed at the expense of good scrutiny and open government.

Ratepayers again, as they are on so many fronts that we have learnt about this week, are being forced to bear an additional cost burden but they are not being told why it is necessary, or what the benefit, if any, will be. It seems to be a matter of, "Don't don't ask questions, just pay up:.."It is the arrogant demand of this high-spending and high-taxing government.

Even trying to get to the bottom of this new wage price index principle is apparently beyond understanding on the part of the Treasurer. It troubles me that we are rushing measure after measure through this Assembly, all of which will be borne by the families of Canberra, and yet the appropriate level of information, discussion and detail is denied us.

The correct thing for this government to do is to treat this new tax like any other budget bill and refer it to the estimates committee. That is the request that we would make of this government, but I fear that that, like any other reasonable request, will be disregarded.

We know from the budget papers that the fire and emergency services levy is being imposed to assist in covering the mounting costs of the ACT's emergency services. It is quite extraordinary that the cost for those services has increased from $46 million in 2001-02 to $75 million in 2005-06, an increase of 63 per cent over four years.

I know my colleague Mr Pratt has raised questions about this time and time again, and he will be speaking in more detail on that extraordinary growth in expenditure. We see no information being available on the reasons for that increase and whether costs could have been saved by doing things in a different way.

The levy is expected to raise $20 million per year, but no information is available on what other expenditure could be forgone to make way for that $20 million. There is no explanation offor why the items on which that $20 million is to be spent are more important

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