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Ms Follett is trying to change the policy. Having moved this amendment, she should move another one to say that everybody whose valuations went up should get the benefit of that as well. That obviously is not possible. It is simply not possible under this approach. What would it mean to Government revenue? It would mean that everybody whose valuation fell would get the benefit of it, but the Revenue Office would not get the benefit from everybody whose valuation went up. That would leave an enormous hole in the budget, as Ms Follett knows, that would have to be picked up somewhere.
One of the interesting things that we have not spoken about yet is the way Ms Follett levied rates, but not just on residential valuations. Ms Follett balanced residential and commercial valuations. If commercial valuations went down at a greater rate or at a greater percentage rate than residential values went down, if they went down at all, the bulk of payments would be moved to the residential sector. In other words, if the base falls out of the commercial market, residential ratepayers in the ACT pay. Under my approach everyone gets 4 per cent - residential, commercial, whatever. It is interesting to note that since 1992 the proportion of rates revenue contributed by the non-residential sector has fallen from 19.49 per cent to 14.5 per cent. The amount that residential ratepayers are paying as a percentage has gone up substantially. That means that commercial ratepayers are paying less and residential ratepayers are paying more.
Ms Follett was talking about fairness and equity. If we are really looking at that, is it not fairer to have everybody's rates going up by the increase in the CPI, whether they be commercial or residential ratepayers, for this year while we have another look at it? It does seem to me unfair that, if the bottom falls out of the commercial market, the residential ratepayers should pick up the bill. I do not believe that that is an appropriate rating system. We are looking for a different one - one that is fairer; one under which residential people do not pick up the tab for the commercial market.
MR BERRY (4.56): Mrs Carnell never ceases to amaze me. First of all, she uses an argument in relation to residential properties which actually criticises her own rating system.
Mr De Domenico: No, it does not.
MR BERRY: It is her party's policy to adopt a system based on the CPI. That means that the top end of town, those who do well out of increasing property values, will prosper under that 4 per cent proposal. If their increases are higher than that they will do very well, thank you very much. The ones we are concerned about are the ones whose property values fall, particularly those whose property values fall by more than 4 per cent. I think it is reasonable to assume that in areas where there is less interest in the real estate there will be a decline; but there is also a possibility of a decline where there was a steep increase last time, or at least a levelling out. They also ought to have the opportunity. Much has been made by the Liberals opposite about areas where there have been steep increases - great shrieks - but they are not prepared to allow the circumstance to prevail, where there is a decline in value of above 4 per cent, for them to have the advantage of that decline. You cannot criticise the Labor Government for its rating policies when its rating policies provided some relief in those circumstances. In circumstances where property values had fallen the rating system tended to flatten out the average rates paid.