Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3279 ..
Debate resumed from 19 November 1998, on motion by Mr Smyth:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR CORBELL (8.37): Mr Speaker, I must say at the outset of this debate that the Labor Party was perhaps not entirely surprised that the Government came forward with this Bill to amend the Land (Planning and Environment) Act to extend the sunset clause or the change of use charge. Indeed, we were actually starting to get a bit worried because the sunset date was creeping closer and closer and we had not seen the Government do any work to review the issue of change of use or betterment, as it used to be known. They knew that the sunset clause was coming along, that on 31 December it would take effect, and that under the Act we would revert to a 100 per cent betterment. So it was a bit of a relief in some ways when the Minister finally woke up to the issue and said, "We are going to extend the sunset clause by a year".
Now, on the face of it, this seems a very reasonable and sensible proposition. But I think it is important that members, when considering this Bill, reflect on how much time the Government has had available to it to deal with the issue of change of use charge. To do that I want to reflect on some of the history of this debate. Back in 1996 there was a significant debate in relation to the Land Act. That was in response to the Stein report which had been commissioned by the Government in the previous year and which had been presented to the Government and the Assembly.
Mr Moore: A very good report it was too.
MR CORBELL: As Mr Moore said, it was a very good report. We agree that it was a very good report. It is a pity that some of the most significant recommendations were not accepted by the Liberal Government at the time. The issue of betterment was one of the issues raised. In fact, betterment was one of the reasons that provoked the whole Stein inquiry. Issues to do with the Yowani golf course redevelopment, I think, provoked the Stein inquiry in the first place. It is interesting that we have now come full circle.
In proposing the 75 per cent level for change of use charge, the Government argued that that was an appropriate level of betterment because of the significant economic downturn that was occurring in the Territory at that time.
They went on to say, however, that they would be prepared to consider the issue of whether or not to return to 100 per cent betterment on the conclusion of an inquiry and an investigation by a professor of statistics at the ANU, Professor Des Nicholls. His name was mentioned in the Hansard of the debate. The Labor Party, in 1996, was prepared to support that proposition. The Labor Party has a policy of 100 per cent betterment. We believe that that is the only appropriate way to gain a return for the Territory for improvements that are made as part of a lease or a lease change. But we were prepared to accept that that 75 per cent rate should be in place for two years pending the outcome of the inquiry by Professor Nicholls.