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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (17 November) . . Page.. 2569 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

I know there are contracts - I think they are two-year contracts - with certain firms in Canberra. Is that the only money that is available? If that money runs out, is that it, folks, or are there other avenues that the department can use for that urgent type of expenditure?

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, the funding of maintenance has been devolved to the regional offices so that the regional offices themselves can make the decisions that would look after the tenants to best effect and gain best value for the money. Mr Wood, I will find out those answers for you. I believe that we have satisfactory funds there to keep up the maintenance, but I will inquire for you as to how much of that has been expended and how much is left.

Health Workers - Salary Packaging

MR BERRY: My question is to the Minister for Health and Community Care. Minister, is it true that certain health workers will be offered a tax deal in lieu of a pay increase, the deal being based on the tax status of the hospital as a public benevolent institution? Minister, what authority have you to offer a tax deal to some ACT workers in lieu of a pay rise? Who will enforce the deal if the tax arrangements change? Do you know that a review of the PBI tax arrangements is proceeding as we speak?

MR MOORE: Thank you, Mr Berry, for the question, which is mostly about the issue of salary packaging and the deal that has been offered specifically to some non-nursing staff at the hospital. Salary packaging is rapidly becoming a key feature of employment arrangements across the Commonwealth, State and Territory public sectors. Most new certified agreements applying to Commonwealth and ACT public servants provide for employees to participate in salary packaging arrangements should they so choose. A legal instrument, such as an award, a certified agreement or an Australian workplace agreement, is required in order to authorise salary packaging. So, that is how they are authorised.

Salary packaging provides additional flexibility for employees as they can elect to receive their fortnightly salary as a combination of cash payments and non-cash items. The Chief Minister's Department has issued guidelines on salary packaging which limit the percentage of salary which may be packaged and provide a menu of the non-cash items appropriate for packaging at this time. The guidelines also ensure that there is no additional cost to government of providing salary packaging arrangements.

Salary packaging arrangements generally attract fringe benefits tax rather than PAYE taxation. The Commonwealth taxation system provides benefits to employees participating in salary packaging, with fringe benefits and other tax arrangements applying to certain non-cash items being less than would be payable under a PAYE tax system. Examples of these non-cash items are things such as leases on motor vehicles and superannuation.

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