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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 (19 October) . . Page.. 3354..

Financial Management Act-instruments

Land tax

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.51): Earlier today, late in the afternoon, we were presented with consolidated annual financial information and, whilst I have not had the opportunity to give great analysis to these documents, it was interesting to note the decrease in the operating surplus of some $39 million in the publication of the interim outcome in the June quarter 2006 consolidated financial report. I think that was mentioned by the Chief Minister, but it certainly is clear in the documentation.

This financial result, which is reflective of the requirements under national reporting standards, came as a result of the reliance on the 10-year commonwealth bond rate, which at 30 June 2006 was 5.87 per cent, but the convention applied measures to the superannuation expense using the prevailing discount at the beginning of the financial year and that, based on the commonwealth rate as at 1 July, was 5.1 per cent, and that caused most of the $39 million variation.

When one looks at the other aspects of these accounts, I suppose it is interesting to do so in the context of the extraordinary number of press statements the Chief Minister has put out in the last couple of days. He is getting very agitated and, as I said yesterday, he was very defensive about the land tax, the utilities tax and so on. As I have always predicted in the period since the budget, these things are starting to bite. It is my firm prediction that over the coming two years the people of Canberra are going to become more and more aware of just how savage the last ACT budget was.

What we have, of course, is an attempt to try to distort the concerns expressed by the opposition in relation to these tax measures and then to try to reconstruct those concerns and quantify them as a promise. We have a situation where Mrs Dunne has now twice been accused of making a commitment to abolish the water abstraction charge whereas, in fact, she has expressed concern that this method of raising revenue may raise some grave legal and constitutional issues.

If the government interprets that as saying abolition, I think that it is drawing a long bow. The whole point of that concern is that the territory has to be very careful that, if it institutes tax measures that are later found to be unlawful, we will present ourselves with bigger financial problems. I think there is growing suggestion that that may be under challenge and that is a matter of concern. It does not mean abolition. It may be that, if those revenues are needed, they should be raised in a more straightforward fashion than under the guise of something that they are not.

The same principle applies, of course, in relation to the utilities tax. My concern is with these backdoor, disguised taxes which we thought we had seen the end of. The relevance to the consolidated accounts is that we are seeing here a $726 million GST revenue grant. The explanatory notes say that the increase of six per cent is consistent with last year and was driven by growth in the GST revenue pool of which the ACT receives approximately 1.9 per cent in the upward revision to the ACT's relative share of the GST revenue pool.

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