Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 807 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
We worked through a new system. That system has delivered, in at least one or maybe two rates years since it was put in place, a much more stable arrangement for the delivery of rates and changes in rates across the city. That has been a major achievement. So, I hear with hesitation the suggestion by Ms Tucker that we should go back and reopen the question of what we do with rates. I would urge members to be careful about this. It was extremely difficult to find out of that last review a formula which was fair and which provided for stability, and I would strongly urge members not to think that we can easily just plunge back into this pool and emerge with a clear answer.
Also, the suggestion that the Government should not be allowed to set the fixed-charge component of the rates is a somewhat extraordinary suggestion. If the Government does not fix it, who is going to fix it? Surely that is of the essence of what budgeting is all about. If the Government cannot fix its own fixed-charge rate in the budget, what is it supposed to have control of? I do not think any government - an alternative government included - in any budget would want to forgo the right to set that part of the rates bill.
Mr Quinlan: You have to answer for the level to which you change it, though, do you not?
MR HUMPHRIES: Of course, the level can be changed.
Mr Quinlan: You have to answer for it.
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Quinlan makes the point that we have to answer for that. We will do so, and we think we have a very good answer to that. In respect of this year, the rate increases are moderate across most of the city and the fixed charge rises marginally. Mr Speaker, bear in mind that everybody in the city uses a certain amount of services, whether they live in a grand mansion in Forrest or in a bed-sit in Richardson. They use a certain base quantity of services, and that fixed charge reflects only part of the base services that people use. So, it is not unreasonable that that base level be there and, indeed, that it increase somewhat to reflect the uniform use of those services which people make across the city.
Mr Speaker, we have a floating amount, varying from suburb to suburb and from value of property to value of property, to reflect the fact that there is a need for some sort of mechanism to allow for people to pay different amounts according to their means, at least as reflected in the value of their property. So, Mr Speaker, I would say to people that the system is not easily modified. If members have a bright idea about how to change the system positively, we will be looking at that. We will be very happy to see what that might be. But let us not just plunge into a decision to reopen the question of how the rates system operates, because an answer will not be easy to come by.
MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (11.08), in reply: Mr Speaker, I think that this debate is extremely interesting, taking into account what Mr Humphries said when he gave a little bit of the history of rates in the last Assembly. I think one of the things that maybe many people have forgotten is that the approach that this Government took was to increase rates by the increase in the CPI. That is what we did