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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1415 ..

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (5.55): I move:

Page 5, line 33, definition of "exempt work", paragraph (c), omit "$5,000", substitute "$20,000".

Basically, Mr Berry is proposing that the threshold go to $10,000 and we are proposing that it go to $20,000. I recall that in one of the drafts that went out, Mr Speaker, the figure of $20,000 was mentioned, and we suggest that for very good reason. A threshold of $5,000 - we would say even $10,000 - is far too low. The problem would be to make this levy applicable only if building work of a reasonably substantial nature was involved.

I propose a threshold that triggers the applicability of the levy to be set at $20,000 because there is a real need to remove minor works, especially very minor housing renovations. Even a figure of $20,000 is pretty low, Mr Speaker. I think in some other States it is more than that. But at least that would remove things like people putting up a very small extension, a pergola, a garage or something like that. Even $20,000 might catch a large number of small extensions, but at least it takes out of the equation a lot of small renovations that people do on their houses.

It would still catch any major renovations or building work done to houses and certainly is well and truly below the cost of building any sort of dwelling whatsoever. It still does take into account large renovations, and that in itself might be a bit of a problem because these days $20,000 does not get you too far. I think it is about $10,000 a square or something like that, so it is still relatively low, but it does take out those minor works. Anything lower would be caught.

I do not think it has ever been the intention of anyone who has put forward this type of legislation that those types of works be caught. The purpose of this particular levy is to train. It is not to make a ridiculous impost on the average householder who might be considering a fairly minor building renovation. We say that $20,000 is a more realistic limit than what is being proposed.

MR BERRY (5.57): Labor will be opposing the proposition put by the Minister. During debate earlier, one of the Ministers - I think it was Mr Smyth - talked about how much revenue might be soaked up in administration in relation to this matter, although I would dispute the numbers that he used. What Mr Stefaniak is arguing is that there be even less revenue to soak up. Increasing it to $20,000 would result in revenue not being collectable for the running of this scheme.

It has to be said that for a $100,000 construction this is not a large impost. For a $100,000 construction it is a couple of hundred dollars. For a $10,000 construction it is $20. What you have to keep in mind in all of this is the principle that, no matter how small the job, qualified trades persons are going to be needed for that construction, and the aim of the training levy is to ensure that there are adequately trained people within the industry to carry out construction in the future. It has been argued before that a shortage of tradesmen is going to lead to a rise in costs in the industry in due course. I do not think there can be any argument against that, so, Mr Speaker, I think this ought to be retained.

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