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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3412..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

some manna from heaven or some bequest by the commonwealth parliament, it needs to be said that this misunderstands the nature of the intergovernmental agreement that the states, the territories and the commonwealth entered into at the time the GST was imposed. It is part of a mantra or recurring theme from the shadow Treasurer and the Liberal Party in this place that we are being drowned in cash from the commonwealth and if only we did not expend funds on the delivery of high priority government services to the extent that we do-indeed, in this particular circumstance, to overcome deficiencies which we inherited from the Liberal Party-all would be well. But, really, this seriously misunderstands and misrepresents the nature of the payments by the commonwealth to the states and territories.

The suggestion implicit in remarks made today by the shadow Treasurer that we are absolutely swimming in cash from the GST could not be further from the truth. I think it is fair to suggest that the commonwealth is swimming in cash from the GST. Of course, the commonwealth has always promised that the GST was a state tax, that these funds would be confined to the states and territories for the delivery of services to the people of Australia through state and territory constitutional arrangements. But this is not exactly or precisely how it has operated in practice. We have met our obligations.

There is the suggestion-we heard it again today-that, while the states and territories might perhaps be implementing the detail of the intergovernmental agreement, they are not working within the spirit by abandoning a range or raft of other taxes or perhaps repressing their own taxation activity. In that context it does need to be said again and again that the commonwealth government is the highest taxing government that Australia has ever seen. It is. It is indisputable-you just need to look at the numbers. The Liberal commonwealth government is ripping more taxes out of Australians than has any other government in the history of Australia.

This ACT government, this Labor ACT government, is not, despite the rhetoric from the other side, a high taxing government. This is shown in the numbers. This is not a high taxing government. We certainly levy now-certainly since the last budget-at a level consistent with the average around the states and territories. Prior to the budget just delivered, our taxation effort was not actually anywhere near the highest in Australia. It still is not. Certainly, we did not have a level of taxation effort that was consistent with the majority of states and territories around Australia. Through our most recent budget, we now have-I forget the precise number-lifted our taxation effort to be consistent with the average effort of jurisdictions around Australia.

Obviously, any debate around taxes represents an opportunity to belt any government in power-an opportunity which, of course, as has happened today, oppositions always take. But despite that, this government is not an historically high taxing government, unlike the current commonwealth government, which is a very high taxing government.

I will conclude by thanking the opposition and the Greens for their support of the amendments which, as I say, finalise the ACT's commitment to the intergovernmental agreement in relation to the introduction of the GST. I thank members for their contribution and support.

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