Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1186 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
The Democrats have always advocated a strong social safety net in housing, as in other areas of need. We do not believe that anyone should be homeless as a result of poverty, but many people in the ACT cannot afford housing in the private market, and we do not have enough public and community housing. The barrier to expanding our subsidised housing stock is a lack of revenue. And here we are looking at a rates scheme that will cut into our revenue base.
Cutting taxes across the board is usually electorally popular, and we have to recognise that there are people in the ACT who are paying taxes and rates beyond their ability to manage. We have to balance that with the fact that our revenue needs to come from somewhere to support those in our community in need.
Property rates are one of the core revenue sources for the ACT government. If we reduce rates revenue gains to CPI, our territory revenue will not keep up with rising costs, unless the government has secret plans to introduce a tax to make up for the revenue we are going to lose through the rates system.
We know that wage costs in areas like education and health often rise faster than CPI. In recent budgets, not just budgets from this government but budgets from the former government, we have had a non-matching of CPI increases, so our current social systems have gone backwards. We need to be able to meet the rising costs of meeting the needs of our community without the community suffering a cut in services.
The reason that I believe it is important to debate this matter as a matter of public importance is that we need to be debating the rates system in the ACT to ensure that it is equitable and that those who can afford the most are paying the most. For those who move-and we know that it is people at the poor end of town who move more often-there should be an equitable system of rates, and we should have sufficient revenue to provide services to people who have to pay higher rates when they move and to other people who need social services.
This debate is important. The government should be thinking again about a rating system that will give concessions to those who really need them and that will help territory revenue to grow as our needs grow. Such a system would tax those who could afford to pay. Maybe the government should be looking at means-tested rates or a means-tested concession system so that more than 76 people can access the concession if they need it.
We cannot have a change to our rates system that looks like a barefaced grab for votes. Such votes would be bought at the expense of our education system and our social services. We cannot afford to be so short-sighted.
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (5.42): I rise to defend my proposed system against what Ms Dundas said. But Ms Dundas did not say much. She said several times that this debate is important. I did pick up the suggestion of a means tests for concessions. I reckon that is about it.
There are some misconceptions inherent in what Ms Dundas said. They ought to be corrected. Ms Dundas said that this system would lead to the loss of revenue. That lot