Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2056 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (4.41): I will be brief in commenting on this Bill. I simply want to record very clearly that the process of arriving at this system in the last Assembly was a tortuous process. In fact, members who were there then will recall that the Government put forward a formula for improving on the rates system of the past, the system which saw huge increases, 30 per cent increases in one year, in some suburbs and decreases of the same amount in other suburbs. We argued before the 1995 election that there had to be an improvement in the rates system to get away from that roller-coaster ride.
In the course of the last Assembly we delivered a different model. That model was initially rejected by the Assembly and it was refined somewhat. We came back and we got a model which was acceptable to the Assembly, and it was then passed. The model that is there today was the innovation of the Government, but it was a model which was ultimately approved by the rest of the Assembly.
The mechanisms used in that formula to increase the fixed charge were mechanisms that were clearly flagged in the debate on that rating system in the last Assembly. Those opposite have now said that they do not like the system; that they want more information about the system. In the last Assembly they were prepared to support the equivalent Rates and Land Tax (Amendment) Bill notwithstanding the lack of that information. They were prepared to support the Rates and Land Tax (Amendment) Bill last year, in the Fourth Assembly, without that information as well. Now, suddenly, they say they want information and are not going to support the Bill in this year's budget without that information. It is capricious and it is opposition for the sake of opposing.
I am reminded of the words that the former Opposition Leader, Mr Whitecross, used in debate in this general area of rating. On 26 June 1997 he said:
The other two main tools of the new rating system - the flat fee component and the $19,000 threshold - are also supported by Labor. However, Mr Speaker, I would like to say that a flaw in the flat fee component is that it is not linked to any explicit services provided by the Government.
What we are doing here is linking the flat fee component more explicitly to the level of government services which each person in the ACT enjoys, irrespective of whether they live in a very modest dwelling in Monash or in a mansion on three acres in Red Hill. We are linking that flat fee more to those across-the-board services consumed by people, which is what Mr Whitecross called for in 1997. We are doing what the Labor Party has asked us to do - at least the Labor Party as per Mr Whitecross. We have already heard Mr Corbell today disavow former Labor candidates in this Assembly. I do not know whether Mr Whitecross is one of those who can be discarded so easily, even though he was the leader of the party at the time. Mr Whitecross's words apparently do not count anymore for what Labor thinks in this place. This is another example of the highly capricious behaviour of the Opposition, which is very hard for a government to deal with.