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MR DE DOMENICO: And you will see them when they are available, Mr Whitecross. I would also be very interested to see whether the people in Macarthur, under this regime, are happier than they were when their rates went up by 62 per cent, under your party's regime, over the five years you were in government. They went up by 62 per cent in your electorate. You should be hanging your head in shame for the fact that, under your party, in your electorate the average increase in rates, Mr Whitecross, was in the order of 35 per cent. You might be prepared to come into this place and say that that was good thinking, but 42 per cent of Canberrans did not agree with you.

I think this is very good legislation. It commits this Government to an election promise and it shows once again to the people of the ACT that what Liberal Party governments promise they deliver, and they deliver very quickly. We are 104 not out - 104 days in government; 104 not out. We have committed ourselves to more election promises than the mob over there did in the five years they were in government.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (4.25), in reply: The Rates and Land Tax (Amendment) Bill 1995 contains a number of measures, some of which give effect to election commitments by my Government, others of which are designed to improve the administration of the Rates and Land Tax Act and make it easier for ACT rates and land tax payers to meet their obligations. My Government undertook to remove the unfair land tax impost on residential properties which were not being used to derive income. With the passage of the amendments proposed in this Bill, properties used by family members where no rent is received, for example, will not incur a land tax liability. On the other hand, greater equity will prevail by introducing land tax liability for income-producing dual occupancy properties and properties used purely as boarding houses, which under the current permanent place of residence test do not attract land tax.

My Government also committed itself to an external review of the rating and valuation system and to hold rates payments in 1995-96 to the current year's values plus the increase in the CPI. The Bill gives effect to this undertaking. Quarterly assessments of land tax were also a promise of my Government, and the Bill delivers this reform. With the passage of the amendment, residential land tax payers will not be liable for a whole year’s land tax where their property is rented for only a short period of that year. Another financial benefit for land tax payers is that there will no longer be a surcharge for paying land tax on a quarterly basis. On the administrative side, the introduction of staggered billing of rates and land tax charges will make it easier to pay accounts and reduce customer frustration at payment centres on payment days. Enhancing this legislative change is an increase in the number of payment centres, as Australia Post will, from 1 July 1995, be collecting selected government charges, including rates and land tax.

There are a number of things that need to be sorted out here. The first one is that the rates part of this Bill is budget neutral in forward estimates terms. All we are doing here, and this is important, is collecting exactly the same level of rates that Ms Follett had planned to do if she stayed in government. It is the same dollar value exactly. Any view that somehow people are going to be worse off is simply not true on a macro basis. What Ms Follett does not seem to be able to handle here is that our policy is different from hers. We are not using her policy of rates and land tax valuation. We believe that, while we do a total review of our rating system, the rates bill you got in your hand last year will be what you get this year, plus the increase in the CPI.

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