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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 3951..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The bill makes the charge payable by owners of utility networks as defined under the Utilities Act 2000, the Utilities (Electricity Transmission) Regulation 2006 and the Telecommunications Act 1997. The bill makes the tax payable at a rate to be determined under the Taxation Administration Act 1999.

The tax will be calculated as a simple fixed rate multiplied by the network length. The Commissioner for Revenue will have the opportunity to approve the appropriate methodology for determining network lengths. This will provide some flexibility for network owners, recognising the different types of infrastructure while maintaining the integrity of the application of the charge. The bill also defines certain important terms such as an owner, a utility and a network.

The government recognises that the network charge may be passed on to customers. The full extent and timing of this effect will be determined by the pricing strategies of utilities and by price determinations by the relevant regulators. Some of the effect may be absorbed by utilities and not passed on to customers in the short term. For example, the electricity charge is unlikely to be passed on under the current price determination, which is in force until 2009-10. Similarly, telecommunications utilities may not pass on all, or even some, of the charge until 2008 or later because of regulatory and competitive pricing pressures.

In the short term, the government estimates that the full-year impact on an average utility customer, connected to all network services, would be around $1.80 a week. In the longer term, and only if the charges are fully passed through to customers, the average impact across all customers would be $2.63 a week. Differential amounts are likely to be applied to residential and large commercial customers. In any case, under current price determinations it is unlikely that this full impact would occur until 2009.

The government has recognised the need to reduce the impact on pensioners and department of Veterans' Affairs gold card holders. Consequently, the government will be increasing the funding for pensioner rebates on energy and water and sewerage bills. The extra funding amounts to approximately $280,000 in the first year, increasing to $400,000 by 2009-10 when the electricity charges are expected to flow through.

Finally, the bill amends the Taxation Administration Act 1999 to include the utilities network facilities tax as a tax law and thus subject to the provisions and support of ACT taxation legislation. In raising the revenue necessary to support important public services for the community, the bill recognises that utility companies derive considerable benefits from being able to run their networks within the ACT. This charge will be applied equally to all utilities and will not discriminate between government and privately owned utilities. I commend the Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Bill 2006 to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Children and Young People Amendment Bill 2006 (No 2)

Ms Gallagher, by leave, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

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