Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2032 ..
Debate resumed from 18 June 1996, on motion by Mrs Carnell:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (10.32): Mr Speaker, this Bill amends the Act to provide for 1994 unimproved values to be used in assessing 1996-97 and 1997-98 rates and land tax and for municipal rates for individual ratepayers for the 1996-97 financial year to increase in line with the forecast CPI increase of 3 per cent. The Opposition will be supporting this Bill in principle, but it should be said that we are not happy. What Mrs Carnell did in 1995-96 in freezing valuations at 1994 levels and increasing them by the CPI was consistent with her election promise. Regardless of what we thought of her election promise, it was consistent with her election promise.
This year it is hard to escape the conclusion that Mrs Carnell is effectively breaking her election promise. In her campaign document, Mrs Carnell said that she was going to cap any rate increases to the level of inflation while a comprehensive review of the ACT's land valuation system was conducted to determine a fairer way to levy rates. The 1995 system was designed for one year only, to allow the Government to find a better system through the review. It was an interim measure. We had high expectations of Mrs Carnell finding a better system. Mrs Carnell went through the process and had her review. Where is the better system, Mrs Carnell? There is not one. Mrs Carnell engaged three consultants to conduct the review - McCann and Associates, Coopers and Lybrand, and Mallesons Stephen Jaques.
Mrs Carnell: It was actually one consultant.
MR WHITECROSS: There were three people involved.
Mrs Carnell: There were three parts of one consultancy.
MR WHITECROSS: That is right; one consultancy.
Mr De Domenico: Get it right.
MR WHITECROSS: I said three consultants, one consultancy.
Mrs Carnell: Yes, one consultancy.
MR WHITECROSS: I said three consultants, Mrs Carnell. The consultants were engaged to investigate the idea of a flat fee component, which Mrs Carnell promptly rejected the moment the report hit her table. The report did not look at other options in regard to rates. What did this review cost the taxpayer? It cost $72,000. What for? We do not disagree with Mrs Carnell's rejection of flat rate fees in rates. We think that a system based on valuations is a fairer system. Mrs Carnell commissioned the report, shelled out $72,000 of taxpayers' money, and 12 months later she says, "I do not like that idea" and puts it on the shelf. Mrs Carnell told the Canberra Times, "Basically, we are throwing it out".