Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2062 ..
Debate resumed from 4 May 1999, on motion by Ms Carnell:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR QUINLAN (5.02): The Opposition does not support this Bill.
Ms Carnell: Surprise, surprise!
MR QUINLAN: Surprise, surprise! I believe that there has not been reasonable consultation in relation to this Bill. I believe that there has not been too much thought gone into it, either. I think it should have been researched a little bit more. Certainly, there has been plenty of consultation with the LCA on the gaming machine levy, but apparently this lot just dropped out of the blue. Let us just start at the bottom end of it, though. The Bill puts up lottery fees - very small administrative fees, but fees that mean a lot to the local P&C, junior sporting club or whatever when they run their raffles. I am sure that there was not much consultation with the local P&Cs or the scout and girl guide groups. It strikes me as a pretty miserly action, actually, to get down that low in the fees structure.
The Bill also increases the poker machine tax. Hitherto, there have been year-by-year negotiations with the club industry, consultation, bargaining and trade-offs, but this year that is not so. I do not think the Government has thought through what the impact might be. One of the claims that are made by this Government on a regular basis is that we set our rates, taxes and charges to match those in New South Wales. I have to say that, from what I understand, the top rate being charged in the ACT now is possibly marginally higher than that in New South Wales, or about the same, but there is an ascending scale and some of the more modest clubs in New South Wales in the middle of that scale are far better off than the ones in the ACT. I can use as an example club No. 22 in the ranking in the ACT. It is taxed now up to $167,000. In New South Wales it would probably pay about $117,000 in a year, which is a fair difference. When you get down to the small clubs, when you get down to the clubs ranked in the forties in the ACT, you find that they are paying fairly substantial lumps of tax, such as $15,000, $20,000 or $27,000, whereas in New South Wales they would be paying $2,000 or sometimes just a few hundred dollars. So, we have not created equity between the ACT clubs and the New South Wales clubs at all.
I think that there is an injustice in that. I would have thought, given all of the argy-bargy that has occurred between the club industry and the Government this year, that the Government would have had some formal consultation and the club industry might have been given the opportunity to present the Government with the facts of the matter on the impacts. The Government might even have looked at the odd annual report to see whether some of the clubs might be on the brink of going out backwards. I guess it does not help the argument in one way, but there was an article in the newspapers the other day that said that gambling income has gone up considerably. At the same time, it said that the number of venues had gone down. That may well have something to do with the fact that the smaller clubs are going out backwards. We ought at least to put some structure into our thinking when we are imposing these sorts of taxes.