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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 80 ..

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (12.09): Mr Speaker, the Taxation (Government Business Enterprises) Bill 2002 is a technical bill, designed to allow for the implementation of the national tax equivalent regime, as well as allowing for the application of ACT taxes to ACT government enterprises.

Part 2 of the bill gives effect to various intergovernmental agreements relating to the national competition policy and competitive neutrality of government business enterprises-competitive neutrality being the principle that an enterprise should not enjoy a favourable tax status purely because it is publicly owned. Part 2 will impose a liability on nominated government entities to pay Commonwealth income tax equivalents, with the by-product being a more competitive marketplace. It is indeed pleasing to see a Labor government embrace such important concepts-no doubt with gritted teeth.

Part 3 of the bill will impose a liability on various government entities to pay ACT taxes. Presumably, this is also to enforce competitive neutrality. Again, this is a laudable action from the government. With any luck, we will see them move even further and do something about the various ACT taxes, such as payroll tax, which continue to slug local businesses.

I am concerned with the retrospective nature of some parts of this bill. The commencement date for parts 2 and 3 is July 2002. As a general rule, I believe-and the opposition believes-that retrospective laws are to be avoided and that they are indeed bad laws. However, in this case, we will not seek to amend the commencement date as, by and large, this is purely a technical bill and the various entities that will be affected have been on notice for some time. However, I put the government on notice that retrospective laws will not be assured of such a free ride in the future.

The use of regulations to ensure flexibility in the application of the bill is supported. That is indeed a sensible way to meet the changing evolution of the wide and varied range of territory-owned corporations.

Mr Speaker, in summary, this is essentially a technical bill that meets the ACT's commitment to the national competition policy. The opposition will support it.

Debate (on motion by Ms Dundas ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 12.12 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice


MR SMYTH: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, on Saturday, 18 January, the Australian Capital Territory suffered its worst ever natural disaster when bushfires led to the death of four people and destroyed hundreds of homes. It was without doubt the saddest day in our history. Chief Minister, for the record, can you tell the Assembly the chronology of events on that day, as many Canberrans are unclear as to what happened when?

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