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MRS CARNELL: The appeal will be against the 1994 valuation on 1 January. That is all it will be, Ms McRae.

Ms McRae: It is against the 1995 valuation.

MRS CARNELL: No, it will not be against that at all. The only appeal capacity is against the valuation under this Act, and the valuations that are used are as at 1 January 1994. That is the only capacity to appeal. Ms McRae, if you do not believe that, ask Ms Follett, because she knows that that is right. They have had an opportunity, over a quite long period of time now, to appeal against that valuation. That is the only capacity to appeal, even if this amendment goes through; so it is simply unnecessary. It is extra cost, and the money obviously has to come from somewhere, if that is what people want.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.41): There are two matters I need to reiterate. Mrs Carnell knows as well as I do that, had there been a new valuation this year, a 1995 valuation for rating purposes, every ratepayer in Canberra - and there are 100,000 or so of them - would have had the right to appeal against that valuation. They would have been advised of that right with their rates bill. They would have had an amount of time in which to appeal. Because Mrs Carnell has not made a valuation this year but is using last year’s, people have lost that right. I think that is unfair. People are being taxed on a valuation of their land. In principle, it is irrelevant whether that valuation was struck last year, 100 years ago or this year. In a democratic society, they should have a right to appeal on that matter.

I repeat what I said before: Many people who chose not to appeal last year because they expected their rates to drop off the following year did not exercise their right to appeal last year. Had they known that it was to be a repeat experience in 1995, plus 4 per cent, they would have appealed. I believe that this is a matter of natural justice. People last year were not advised that they would lose their right of appeal unless they exercised it immediately. They were not advised of that last year. They had no idea that that was in the Government's mind. I believe that it is essential that this amendment be carried.

I would also say to Mrs Carnell that I think she may have inadvertently misled the Assembly in her previous comments when she referred to the rates increase in 1994-95 as being 5 per cent. It was in fact 3 per cent, and if you check the budget overview document you will see that that is the case. However, there is an important point of principle here, and that is the ability of ratepayers to question the bill they are being presented with. There is no way that people could have known last year that the same valuation would be used this year. I think it is absolutely essential that we put back that right. I say again that I am not proposing that this be a retrospective right. If people paid their rates last year, they paid them, and that is the end of it; but I think they have a right to appeal against this year's valuation, no matter how that valuation was derived.

I again say to the Assembly that I think it is a matter of natural justice, of people being informed of what their rights are and having accurate information available to them. Part of that includes the ability to appeal in relation to your circumstances, and that is a very important right in our community. I believe that it should be upheld on this occasion.

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