Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1668 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I have moved that amendment because it has been put to me by a body corporate manager that the present intention of the Government is to apply commercial rates to residential units that happen to be administered under a body corporate under the Unit Titles Act. That would be grossly discriminatory because there must be hundreds of families that live in units of that kind. They are not commercial operations, they are merely private residential units, and I see no reason why they should be assessed at the higher rate.
I can understand that the Government might have some concern about body corporate residential units that are owned as part of a business operation, they are rent earning and therefore considered to be revenue earning in the hands of the owner, but I see no reason whatsoever why a private owner-resident having such a unit should be required to pay at a commercial rate. I think that would be most discriminatory, most unfair. This Bill, if we are going to vote it in today, should make sure that people are not discriminated against in that fashion.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (4.57): Mr Speaker, this is an amendment that has been drafted by Mr Kaine rather than by Parliamentary Counsel. I have to indicate my very firm opposition to the amendment for two reasons. First of all, the Act is constructed in such a way as to not prescribe at all how the levy falls on individuals, either individual insurance policyholders or individual classes of insurance policyholders, because, Mr Speaker, this is a direct reflection of the scheme that operates in New South Wales and, as far as I am aware, in other places where it operates.
It is not the intention of the Government to have a scheme - I hope Mr Quinlan is listening to this - in the legislation which tells insurance companies how they will impose the levy on individual policyholders. We are happy to consider that, Mr Speaker, but it has always been the contention of the insurance industry that they should be free to make those assessments for themselves based on where, within their class of policyholders, the burden ought to fall.
Mr Speaker, I have to say that this amendment does gross damage to the structure of the Bill. There is nowhere else in the Bill where we prescribe what impact the levy will have on particular classes of policyholder. It could be asked why there should be a provision dealing with unit title holders when there is no provision dealing with business, for example, or other residential policyholders, or those insuring home contents, or those insuring cars, or any other class of insurance that might come along. Mr Speaker, this imposes a gross anomaly in the way the legislation is constructed by driving a shaft down into the underbelly of the proposal and making a particular provision which is not consistent with the rest of the structure of the Act.
The second reason I would argue that members should reject the amendment is that it is not necessary. It is true that the Insurance Council has run a quite serious campaign against this legislation, but I am sure that after today, when the dust settles, it will come back and talk to the Government about ways in which it can logically impose this levy.