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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1400 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

counterproductive to the overall health of the industry in the ACT. If a compulsory levy was to be introduced it is almost inevitable that the building contractor would pass the costs on to the consumer who would already be facing a hefty bill. It is also likely that a levy would do little to encourage construction in Canberra.

Whilst the 0.2 per cent may not seem huge, that is $200 per $100,000 and so on. Also, I note that the Commonwealth Government has indicated that it will refuse to pay the levy. It is a very significant builder of property in Canberra. I think there is $152m for the Museum of Australia. The Department of Defence is also a very significant builder in terms of Commonwealth structures in Canberra and, indeed, throughout the country. It refuses to pay the levy.

Local government would not be exempt from that, but I note that no provision has been made in our capital works for this particular levy. The money would have to be found. Our capital works budget is about $89.8m, plus capital works which Territory owned corporations would be engaged in. You are looking at something like $130m or $140m so that close to $300,000 would have to be found in our capital works budgets for this levy.

If it is not there, what happens? Do we have to knock out some projects? For example, do we knock out the Palmerston community hall, which is about $500,000, or an issue very dear to some members in Tuggeranong, the Lanyon neighbourhood youth centre? Items like that might well be threatened because there is not the money for capital works. Those are some issues too.

Finally, I think members need to look at the history of this. Look at the fact that this is the only industry which we would be doing this for, but also look at just what has occurred in the industry itself. I go back to that situation where we almost did have industry agreement right across the board in 1996, and then that dissipated. That was reinforced when we set out the discussion paper and the various views of components of the industry came back. I do not think that is a terribly good start for imposing levies. It may well be a different question if everyone in the industry said, "Yes, government, let us do it". I think that would be a very different situation, but, for whatever reason, that has not been the case, Mr Speaker.

The Government will be opposing this Bill. If it gets to the detail stage we have a number of amendments to improve its operation. If members have had a chance to look at that, obviously the Bill does impose a significant amount of further administration in terms of just running the levy, which in itself is also an impost in terms of the particular industry.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (5.05): It is apparent from Mr Berry's presentation speech that he continues to refuse to acknowledge that key industry players remain polarised on the introduction of such a levy. He speaks about the groups that support the levy - the Master Builders Association, the National Electrical Contractors Association and the Civil Contractors Association, but, surprise, surprise, he misses some very large groups that have said that they are not interested in this levy. What he neglects to mention is that these are some of the key groups in the industry as well, and I would acknowledge the presence of a representative of the HIA here today.

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