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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 2016 ..

MR QUINLAN: Keep talking, Gary! There were protracted negotiations last year. There was correspondence between the government, the AFP, and the commissioner, Mr Keelty. As a result of it all, there was no recruitment for the best part of six months and, towards the end of last year, the numbers fell away. I know you are jumpy over there, but I did not intend to stand up and say it is all your fault. I recognise that there was difficulty with negotiations last year because there was an additional charge being laid on of something in the order of $10 million for what is termed enabling costs. You do not know-you were not involved.

At the end of last year, we had a substantial decline in police numbers, because of the deficiency in recruiting. I am happy to advise the Assembly that your government is getting on with recruiting and making sure numbers come back up to the full complement.

Payroll tax

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is also to the Treasurer. Mr Quinlan, in the Assembly on Tuesday, you commented along the lines that, in relation to policies on taxation matters, we should seek to put the ACT economy in a similar position to the economy that surrounds us, and on a par generally with that of the nation. We agree with that approach.

In the New South Wales budget, brought down on Tuesday, the New South Wales government announced that the payroll tax rate would be reduced from 6.2 per cent to 6 per cent-that was announced in the 1999-2000 budget as well-that apprentice wages would be exempted from payroll calculations and the payroll tax base would be extended by including the grossed-up values of fringe benefits.

Treasurer, will you ensure that the ACT's payroll tax regime remains competitive with that applying in New South Wales?

MR QUINLAN: Yes. However, you will also be aware-I am taking a wild guess that you will be aware, Mr Smyth-that the formula for our payroll tax is different from that of New South Wales. We have a substantially higher threshold, and a higher rate.

That effectively allows the smaller businesses in the ACT to go payroll-tax-free, which is, I guess, the right end of the spectrum. With that formula, obviously there is going to be a different curve. As a product of that formula, as far as I can see, you must have in the vicinity of 200 or more employees before the ACT system becomes more expensive than the New South Wales system. I think that, as it stands, the ACT system remains competitive with New South Wales.

The one issue I would like to consider further is the initiative they have taken in relation to apprenticeships. The bad news is that-I do not think I am giving away too much of a secret to say this-we have pretty well signed off on our budget already. As you know, you have to allow a couple of weeks for it to be printed. We did it without the benefit of what happened in New South Wales in-let us face it-an election year.

Mr Smyth: Not an election budget!

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