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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4573 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I welcome this legislation, because it replaces legislation which was shown in the High Court to be unworkable. The High Court held that our previous X video regime was in fact an excise, which the Territory is not allowed to extract. I hope that this new regime does not meet with such legislative hurdles. It is my view that, even though the $10,000 per annum licence fee appears substantial, given the overall revenue from it of only $450,000 in a full year this is still an area of revenue where the Government has some scope to raise more funds. I know that there has been consultation with the industry and that the industry is relatively satisfied with the legislation that is before us; but, in view of the regime which it is replacing and the income from that previous regime, I think there is scope for greater revenue raising from this source in the future.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (10.44), in reply: Mr Speaker, in closing this debate, I thank the Opposition for its support for the Bill. I do not propose to elaborate on the comments I have made before about the Liberal Party's policy on X-rated videos. Whatever the policy on those videos, if it is to operate in the Territory and provide for an industry to bring benefits of some sort to the Territory, then it is important at the same time to extract benefits for the broader community through an appropriate regime of taxes and charges. I submit that the regime before the Assembly today is such a regime.

Ms Follett correctly refers to the failed attempt by the Alliance Government to secure a fairly heavy regime of taxation on the X-rated video industry. The Treasurer at the time described the imposition of this tax as loot for lust. I think that was the phrase that he used. It is true that the Government at the time felt that it was appropriate to take heavily from the industry if it were to operate in the Territory. The charges which are imposed under this regime are probably not overall as heavy as they were then, but they still constitute a fairly significant contribution back to the community from the industry to account for the economic benefits which it supposedly brings to the community.

The difference between the Alliance Government's regime and this regime is that the former regime was a franchise fee based on the turnover of the industry and its sales. That was struck down by the High Court in the Capital Duplicators case. The regime put before the Assembly today is a licence regime, such that any person wishing to obtain a licence for a particular retail outlet needs to pay a licence fee. That is a flat fee so that everybody, the smallest distributor and the biggest distributor alike, pays the same amount. It is arguably slightly less equitable than the former arrangement but, we hope, rather more legally durable than the former arrangement. I also confirm that there are some amendments to the Bill which I will speak to during the detail stage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

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