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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 November 2007) . . Page.. 3541 ..


satisfied from the briefings that have been provided to my office that there is unlikely to be any unfair effect from this change. Indeed, it is highly likely that there will be no effect at all, as this does not appear to be an area where taxpayers have attempted to reduce their liability.

I must confess that I am always somewhat sceptical of alleged anti-avoidance measures. It is my view that taxpayers quite rightly do the best they can to minimise their tax liability, though I do not support avoidance, and it is the government’s somewhat ravenous appetite for their money which is often the driving force behind the kinds of ingenious tax schemes we occasionally see pop up in this country.

Nonetheless, it is also sensible that we maintain consistency in tax laws and avoid unintended loopholes, whether they be in taxation or other legislative reform. This ensures that a person’s liability is not determined by such an arbitrary criterion as the ingenuity of their tax adviser, tax lawyer or accountant. In view of the fact that long-term leases remain dutiable property under the Duties Act, it is sensible, for the purposes of consistency and to avoid arbitrariness, that de facto long-term leases based on consecutive short-term leases should be treated identically.

Although I support this bill, it is quite startling to note the swift and effective response of this government to possible tax avoidance issues that have never arisen before, whilst at the same time it seems to drags its heels and make something of a mockery of the tax reform principles that were embodied in the GST reforms. When it comes to reducing territory taxation and faithfully implementing the reforms in the GST agreement, the government really does take its sweet time. It pushes the time for removal of taxes further and further into the future, in concert with its colleagues interstate, while at the same time rapidly introducing new taxes that really cut completely against the spirit of that agreement. Yet, as soon as it notices any prospect that someone might pay less tax, even through a hypothetical avoidance measure that has never been seen in the ACT, it immediately springs into action and we have a bill before the Assembly in record time.

I often complain of this government being inefficient, and indeed in such areas as our public hospitals, public transport and territory owned corporations they have provided abundant evidence to support this view. But, regardless of how badly some of these core services of government may be, this bill does go to demonstrate how efficient and industrious governments are when it comes to finding a way of collecting people’s money. On this issue I have to acknowledge that they excel.

I sincerely hope that there will be some further progress on tax reform in this territory. While the government has grudgingly complied with some of the mandatory aspects of the GST agreement, it has certainly destroyed any serious pretence of substantive tax reform. Contrary to the spirit of the GST agreement, to remove wasteful state and territory tax measures, the ACT government has in fact introduced new taxes to replace the old and to ensure that Canberrans are still paying through the nose for services the like of which should have seen state and territory taxes disappear rather than the nature of them simply changing.

In summary, though, the opposition will support this measure. I do want to put on the record my appreciation for the briefings provided by the Treasury officials and the


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