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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3342 ..

Land (Planning and Environment) Amendment Bill 2001 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 3 May 2001, on motion by Mr Smyth:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR CORBELL (11.36): Mr Speaker, the Labor Party will not be supporting this bill today. This bill primarily deals with changes to the way in which betterment tax or change of use charge is administered. Whilst a number of provisions in the bill are of relatively minor value, the key change is to permit existing leaseholders to provide their own valuation for the purposes of calculation of change of use charge. That change is, in the Labor Party's mind, unacceptable. The most appropriate role for the territory in determining change of use charge is for it to be determined by the Australian Valuation Office on behalf of the territory.

The argument presented by the government in justifying this change is that it permits for a wider range of factors, perhaps known only to the lessee, to be considered in determining the valuation. The Nicholls report, on which the government relies, highlighted the problem that the Australian Valuation Office was not always able to provide an accurate valuation because it was not aware of all of the factors affecting the lease.

This is not, in the Labor Party's mind, an acceptable argument to justify the lessee providing the valuation. It is Labor's view that if there are problems with seeking the full details of the lease or improvements on a lease they should be addressed through mechanisms that will enable the government to gain that information, rather than simply by relying on the lessee to provide the valuation to be used for the purposes of determining change of use charge. It is, to use a cliche, akin to putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank or akin to individual ratepayers being asked to provide the valuations for their properties that determine their level of rates. It is not an approach which we believe is appropriate. Instead, we should be retaining the provision for the government to be the authority for determining change of use charge valuations rather than the lessee. The Labor Party will be opposing this bill this morning.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing, and Community Services) (11.39): On every occasion I have stood in this Assembly to speak about change of use charge, I believe I have taken the opposite view to the government. Today I am going to do the same. This is one of the more difficult decisions. At the moment the Australian Valuation Office provides a valuation of a lease. For big leases, that valuation is often challenged by the leaseholder, the person seeking the change of use, and is reviewed by the AAT. On almost every occasion that I am aware of, the change of use charge has been reduced significantly. So there is a sense that the Australian Valuation Office is always challenged.

The government has said that instead of the lessee challenging the government it would be far better to turn the system around the other way. That is consistent with the recommendation of Professor Nicholls. It is also a positive, in that it removes the existing discretion of a minister to grant a remission or impose an increase.

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