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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4082 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

Finally, the controversial element of the bill is the changing of categories for non-residential land use outside the city area. In the process of updating the language, the government is imposing what I understand to be an estimated increase of $7,000 in rates and land tax on the ACT businesses affected, by charging them the same percentage of rates and land tax as their Civic-based colleagues. This is a tax on business and, although it is only a small revenue measure, it should be discussed in those contexts.

The ACT Democrats will cautiously support this measure but, if we are contacted by small businesses facing overly onerous financial burdens as a result, we will take up the Treasurer's offer to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the business people will have the fair hearing that the Treasurer has promised.

MS TUCKER (11.57): The Greens will also be supporting this legislation. It makes minor amendments to three acts relating to revenue raising. The simplest is the amendment to the Payroll Tax Act, which removes the reference to the Commonwealth Employment Service, which our federal Liberal government abolished a few years ago. The amendment to the First Home Owner Grant Act clarifies that the grant is only payable to people who have not bought and lived in a property before applying for a grant for the acquisition of a different property.

The third, and more complicated, amendment is to the Rates and Land Tax Act. This amendment removes the obsolete term, "city area". This term was used in a now repealed act to describe the area of developed land within the ACT. Up until now, properties outside the city area were rated according to the formula applying to rural blocks, regardless of the use of the land. This bill provides that all blocks in the ACT will now be classified as either residential, commercial or rural for rating purposes. This has necessitated some adjustment to the way the rating is calculated on properties in the rural parts of the ACT that are not used for rural purposes. These blocks will now be rated as commercial properties.

I understand that the rates liability of some 12 affected properties will require re-evaluation. The minister, in his presentation speech, said that he is prepared to provide a partial remission of the additional rates charge on these properties on a case-by-case basis, which seems a reasonable way of phasing in this new system.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections) (11.59), in reply: I thank members for their support of this legislation. I will not outline the bill's functions as that has just been done, but I will repeat my assurances. Let me say, while I have the officers concerned in the chamber, that we will write to those leaseholders directly affected. We will make the point that we are prepared to entertain some phase-in process for the people affected.

These include groups such as a couple of the shooting clubs that have leases outside the defined city area, the Uniting Church-I don't know what it does-and the ACT Nudist Club, for whom, if they bare their soles to us, we'd be happy to entertain some form of transition by virtue of remission. To clarify the answer to the question asked by Mr Humphries, all rural properties inside the city area, as already defined, pay at rural rates by remission anyway. With that, Mr Speaker, I thank members for their support of the legislation.

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