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‘1995 valuation’, in relation to a parcel of land, means the unimproved value of the parcel as at 1 January 1995 that would, but for subsection (1), have been determined or re-determined under another section of this Act.”.
This amendment provides that, where a valuation has fallen between 1994 and 1995, the landowners will be given the benefit of that fall in the determination of their rates and their land tax, if that is applicable, in 1995-96. I said before that I considered that between 1994 and 1995 the unimproved capital value of many properties would have fallen, and anybody who has looked at the property market in the ACT would find that a reasonable expectation. It seems to me that where those falls have occurred it is quite unjust to expect people to pay their rates at last year’s inflated level. It represents a windfall for the Government, plus 4 per cent.
The amendment I am proposing will be of great benefit to people in areas of Canberra, and we know that there are many of them, who experienced a sudden sharp increase in their rates last year. Members might recall that I proposed a three-year rolling average of rates in order to iron out those sharp increases in some areas of Canberra. The reason it was put forward was that, after very careful study of the pattern of rates in Canberra and the pattern of land values, it was abundantly clear that where there had been a sharp rise it was usually followed by something of a fall, or at least very much a flattening out of the unimproved capital values. Insisting, as Mrs Carnell is doing, that people pay last year's level of valuation, plus 4 per cent, and not get the advantage of the fall in valuations that must have occurred, I think, is grossly unfair.
I repeat that I have asked for the information on 1995 unimproved capital values. I believe that it is available. When the Revenue Office briefed my colleagues and me on this rates Bill, we were given to understand that that information was available. It has so far not been made available to me or to my Labor colleagues, and that makes me believe the worst. What do they have to hide? Probably what they have to hide is exactly the situation I am trying to protect people against, and that is that in many areas the unimproved capital value would have fallen. That ought to be reflected in a lower rates bill, and under the legislation proposed by the Government it quite clearly is not reflected in a lower rates bill. The amendment I have moved would have that result, and I commend it to the Assembly.
MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (4.52): I cannot believe that Ms Follett moved this amendment without laughing, because she knows perfectly well that there is no windfall to the Government on the basis of this, simply because the whole policy is based on last year's rates bill plus 4 per cent. Certainly, the people whose property values have fallen will not have whatever possible benefit there may be from that fall, but the people whose property values have increased equally will not pay the substantially increased level of tax. As I said before, this Bill is actually cost neutral. We are at exactly the same level of rates as Ms Follett had planned in her forward estimates, but instead of having the level all over the place, with some people paying 30 per cent more and some people potentially paying a couple of per cent less, we are saying to everybody, “It is what you paid last year plus 4 per cent”. That is the policy.