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MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, under standing order 46, I wish to make a personal explanation.

MR SPEAKER: Proceed.

MR HIRD: In accordance with standing order 156, I wish to inform the house that I am a licensed general auctioneer in the ACT.


MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (10.59): Mr Speaker, I present the Rates and Land Tax (Amendment) Bill 1995, together with the explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill amends the Rates and Land Tax Act 1926. The Act provides for the imposition of municipal rates and land taxes in the Australian Capital Territory. Mr Speaker, the changes proposed in this Bill give effect to my Government's undertakings to improve the basis on which rates and land tax are levied and collected in the ACT. Fundamental to any long-term improvements is the thorough review of our current rating and valuation system which my Government has committed itself to undertaking. I will be announcing details of that review in the coming months; but, in the meantime, a number of initiatives can be implemented with benefits for the coming year.

Mr Speaker, my Government undertook to introduce changes to the way land tax liability is determined. The current residential land tax system is based on a primary test of excluding from liability property used as the principal place of residence of an owner. This exemption is continued and included in a broader test, which makes liable only property which is revenue raising. As is currently the case, all rateable residential land will be liable to land tax. Exemptions will be provided, however, for residential property which is not rented, nursing homes and retirement villages, and religious residential properties used for residential accommodation and in the course of religious activities. The exemption for rental properties owned by the ACT Housing Trust and land used primarily for primary production will continue.

It will also be possible for an exemption to be obtained, subject to approval by the Commissioner for ACT Revenue, on a rented residential property where the owner is temporarily absent because of compelling compassionate reasons. Such an exemption may be given for a specified period, not exceeding 12 months. With the move to taxing rental properties, the exemption previously provided on property rented simply because an owner is absent for employment reasons will not be available from 1 July 1995.

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