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RATES AND LAND TAX (AMENDMENT) BILL 1995
Debate resumed from 1 June 1995, on motion by Mrs Carnell:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.13): Most of the Government's proposed amendments to the Rates and Land Tax Act were well canvassed in the lead-up to the recent election and, for that reason, the Opposition will not be taking issue with the substance of this Bill. Another reason for the Opposition's general support is that late last year I announced some of the reforms that are contained in the Government's Bill, particularly those relating to quarterly assessment of land tax and the staggered billing of rates and land tax charges to avoid congestion on payment days. Obviously, we will be supporting those aspects of the Bill, for indeed they were our initiatives.
I will be proposing a number of amendments to the legislation when we reach the detail stage. In my view, those amendments will provide for a fairer taxing regime than is currently proposed by the Government. The most significant proposal the Government has included in the legislation is the freezing of valuations as at 1 January 1994. What this action does is ensure that many Canberrans who would have had a reduction in their rates in 1995 as their valuations fell from what I think was an artificially high level last year will now pay an extra 4 per cent on top of the high rates they paid last year. I have tried in vain to get from the Government the detail of unimproved capital values for 1995. I was informed by the Revenue Office that that detail was available; but, as yet, it has not been made available to me. That is another example of the sham the Government represents in its posturing on open and accountable government.
Many people would have wanted to object to their valuations last year if they had been aware that those valuations were to be used for more than one year. The Government's legislation gives them no right of appeal against the valuation as it applies in 1995. Many people paid their rates last year without appealing against the valuation, in the expectation that the valuation would drop in the following year, and that has been the pattern in Canberra - - -
Mrs Carnell: Do you think people ever have expectations that their property is going to reduce in value?
MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, are you going to protect me from the Chief Minister?
MR SPEAKER: Order!
MS FOLLETT: I repeat that those people this year have lost their right to appeal against their valuations, and I believe that that is unfair. They still have no idea what the basis of their rates bill will be next year, as the Government apparently has no policy on the matter. There is to be an inquiry, which again is what we had expected; but what the outcome of that inquiry might be is anybody's guess. I will be proposing that ACT