Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 806 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Maroochy Shire Council, for example, has a computer chip installed in recycling bins so that householders who put out their recycling bins more than 20 times a year are given a $20 concession on their rates. This is just an example of what could be done. There are other ways in which you could do that. If it were given for putting bins out fewer than 20 times a year, it might be more useful, especially with the current state of the recycling industry. If people actually reduced their waste and did not always feel quite so comfortable about creating garbage, whether it is recyclable material or waste, we might actually become a less wasteful society. Another suggestion is the installation of a non-refillable insert to reduce the volume of the garbage bin.
At the time the new rating system was introduced, we also argued that the rate-free threshold should be indexed to inflation. The Government has said that rates could be pegged to the CPI; but the fixed component, which applies equally to all houses regardless of value, has increased by much more than inflation. The fixed-charge component has increased from $220 to $240, or over 9 per cent. When the new system was introduced, the Government argued that the fixed charge was offset by a rate-free threshold of $19,000; but, while the fixed charge has increased, the rate-free threshold has not changed in 1998.
One of the other issues I raised last year was the logic - or the lack of logic - in the system for determining the differential between commercial and residential rates. To redress the drift towards residential properties bearing the greater proportion of the rating burden, the Government put in place an 85 : 15 policy; that is, that 85 per cent of rates revenue comes from residential. Why not set a differential rating structure, rather than determining the rate to apply to residential and commercial sectors based on some arbitrary ratio?
I think there would be some real benefits in an Assembly committee examining some aspects of the rating system. Obviously, it is far too late for this year; but we have plenty of lead time for the 1999-2000 financial year. In my opinion, there is definitely room for improvement. The issues that we would like looked at include the most appropriate split between the fixed charge and the component of rates on unimproved valuations, with a view to amending the legislation to ensure that the Government does not have the power to just increase the fixed component as much as it pleases. We also would like to look at whether it could be enshrined in legislation that the rate-free threshold is indexed to inflation. The issue of a commercial rate obviously needs to be looked at. Building in incentives such as that in Maroochy Shire to encourage households to minimise their waste would certainly help us meet the no waste by 2010 policy.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.04): Mr Speaker, I make a brief contribution to this debate, particularly about the comments made by Ms Tucker. The rates system that the Government put in place - I think, last year, finally - was the culmination of a very long and fairly tortuous debate about what we should be doing with rates. It was the Government's stated commitment that we should avoid the situation, which had operated under the former Labor Government, of huge rises in rates for individual householders in particular parts of Canberra and of equally huge falls in other parts of the city. Those sorts of roller-coaster rides on the annual rates bill were really quite unnecessary.