Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1620 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
This was lumped on everybody by surprise. It was not well thought through. It is inequitable. Maybe if they had to do it via the rates it could have been fairer. I was not saying that if you increase the rates it would be totally equitable. It might have been fairer than this particular proposal, which is clearly very unfair.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.14), in reply: Mr Speaker, it is incredible to see how much of the propaganda of the insurance companies has been swallowed by some people on this debate. It is quite extraordinary and quite distressing, particularly when it comes from people who usually have more sense than to just accept what big business, whose interests are being threatened by this process, might come up with. Mr Speaker, I am really quite appalled by that. I hope that when big business comes and knocks on their doors in future on other issues, where there is not a chance to knock the Government, members of this place exercise a little bit more judgment about what is going on. I have not seen any evidence of it today.
Mr Speaker, I want to go through a whole range of things that have been said in this debate which are simply sheer and utter nonsense. We heard from Mr Quinlan that the levy was not paying for an increase in emergency services, an issue taken up by Mr Hargreaves. Mr Speaker, this levy does help us pay for emergency services because we are not presently paying for emergency services. We are not presently paying for education services in this Territory. We are not presently paying for health services. In fact, none of the services of this community are yet being fully paid for in the sense that people's taxes and other sources of government revenue cover the outlays that this community has to make for those services to be possible. We are operating, in case Mr Quinlan and Mr Hargreaves had not noticed, at a $150m operating loss.
This levy, Mr Speaker, addresses that operating loss by providing a means of covering the cost of services we do not presently pay for by means of a levy like that applied to most other Australian insurance policyholders. Most people in this country who have insurance pay this levy. I know it is the propaganda of the Insurance Council to pretend there is a great move away from this.
Mr Quinlan: And there is.
MR HUMPHRIES: And in some places there is, but the fact remains that most people in this country who hold a policy of insurance pay this levy. It is characterised, for Mr Kaine's benefit, as a levy in all other States, not as a tax. We are simply picking up what they do in other States and applying it in the ACT. Mr Speaker, if we called it a tax I have no doubt that we would be accused of duplicity in the sense of changing the title of the thing between one jurisdiction and another.
Mr Speaker, we heard from Mr Quinlan that we have no consultation with the industry. Well, with great respect, when has there ever been a chance for a government to consult about a new form of taxation before it was imposed, except, of course, in the present debate about a GST? You people were going to impose a tax on beds in hotels. Not only did you not propose to consult with people about it; you actually denied that you were going to do it. Where was the consultation there? For heaven's sake, do not insult our intelligence with rot like that.