Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4081 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The effect of the bill is that properties outside of the city area-so defined in an instrument that dates back to the Whitlam government-are to now attract commercial levels of land tax in the event that they are commercial in nature, as opposed to rural, residential or something else. That appears to be an appropriate transition.
There is obviously no particularly strong argument for distinguishing between the use that is made of land depending on where it falls in relation to an arbitrary line. As I've indicated, this line does appear to be particularly arbitrary. It is obviously more appropriate to determine the level of land tax or rates based on the purpose of the lease and the extent to which the property is used for that purpose. That much of the legislation I think is supportable.
The concern that my party has had about the program is that presumably a number of leaseholders of commercial properties were unaware, and perhaps are still unaware, of the change in their status being effected by this legislation. The Treasurer notes in his explanatory memorandum or his presentation speech-I don't recall which-that, if there is a problem with particular businesses, he is prepared to exercise powers of remission to provide for some kind of transition period. That would be an appropriate thing to do and I commend him for that. He also notes that it is expected that only an extra $7,000 per annum will be collected after the passage of this legislation.
One thing that isn't made clear in the bill and in the presentation speech-and perhaps the minister can clarify this later on-is whether or not there are rural businesses inside the city area which will have lower levels of rates or land tax because that line has effectively been abolished for the purposes of the calculation of such charges. I assume that the $7,000 a year increase in the size of the government tax take is a net figure: that it is not purely a $7,000 increase in the tax paid by businesses, but that there is also some reduction in the tax paid by other leaseholders because they fall inside the city area, but are not commercial in nature.
I do commend the government for taking these sorts of provisions to the affected parts of the community soon after they were introduced into this place. The fact is that it is a matter of some concern that there could be businesses which receive significantly larger bills for rates in the next 12 months. They will have no idea why they are receiving them, and concerns will have to be allayed with that information. We will support this legislation, but I hope that different procedures can be used in the future to deal with provisions of this kind, which do affect certain sections of the community.
MS DUNDAS (11.55): The ACT Democrats will be supporting this bill. We understand that the measures in this bill about the first home owners grant and payroll tax are merely administrative measures that were missed in the drafting, or that the language has changed over the years. However, it is interesting that the payroll tax law has been operating for quite a while still referring to the now defunct CES, but we haven't fixed it until now. That is something that we need to watch throughout our legislation.
I also support the government's move to determine conveyancing fees by disallowable instrument. As we found out last sitting week when we were dealing with street names, disallowable instruments are sometimes worthy of debate in the Assembly, and worth disallowing or amending. I commend the government for this measure.