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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (27 February) . . Page.. 334 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

the Canberra Times of 21 February, he must have known the day before what the Chief Minister and Treasurer was going to say the next day when he put our his media release. Otherwise, there is a strange coincidence. If he did not have prior knowledge, would the Treasurer indicate whether or not Mr Peters knows something the rest of us do not know, and has the Treasurer abandoned the notion of scrapping this iniquitous tax, with effect from 1 July this year?

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank Mr Kaine for the question. Does Mr Peters know something the rest of us do not know? I would say it is more likely that Mr Peters does not know something that everybody else does know-namely, that the government announced a year ago in its budget for this financial year that it was going to abolish the insurance levy. What Mr Kaine describes as a coincidence is in fact cause and effect. Mr Peters put his comments in the Canberra Times on the day concerned, 21 February, and I immediately put out a press release to disabuse him of his view that there was any doubt about the status of the insurance levy as from 1 July this year.

I do not think there is a conspiracy here. Mr Kaine forgets the old adage that if it is the choice between a conspiracy and a stuff-up go for the stuff-up every time. I think Mr Peters neglected to look back over his no doubt very elaborate files to see what the government had said about this matter. It is therefore very pleasing for me to be able to reaffirm today in the Assembly that the insurance levy will go from 1 July. Indeed, I expect very soon to be introducing legislation that will achieve just that.

MR KAINE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I am pleased to hear the Treasurer affirm that Mr Peters does not know what the rest of us do know and that it is not the other way round. Will the Treasurer confirm that his draft budget, which we currently have for discussion, has a reduction on the bottom line of revenue of $10 million, which is approximately the revenue that was being gained from this source and will be clearly identified as a reduction in the revenue from this source?

MR HUMPHRIES: The forward estimates have been adjusted to remove the revenue from the levy as from 1 July, so there will be no revenue from that date from the insurance levy. The $10 million that you might be referring to is the $10 million that the government has indicated it wishes to return in the way of reduced taxation to the ACT community, and that is another matter altogether. It is the government's intention that, with a surplus, there ought to be the capacity for the ACT community to share in the benefits of that surplus.

I am very pleased that we have reduced the surplus. We believe that it is appropriate to spend most of the surplus on additional services to the ACT community, but we also believe that it is worth returning some of that surplus to the ACT community directly in the way of reduced taxation. I note that Mr Quinlan thought that it was not enough to return just $10 million. Presumably, he will indicate in the course of the coming election campaign how much more the Labor Party would be returning to people in the way of reduced taxation. I look forward to that announcement.

Our position is very clear. We have put it on the table. We have indicated where we are coming from on this matter. I look forward to other members of the Assembly being able to match or improve on the offers that the government has made to the community of the territory.

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