Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2422 ..
I hope that these and also the report by the Public Accounts Committee are listened to. They also suggested that this is an area of grave concern, which needs further work. I hope that all the work that has been done on the rates legislation so far is not just thrown out but is built upon. That said, I am happy to support the bill. I will not be supporting the amendments, for reasons that I have already outlined.
MS TUCKER(1.02 am): The Greens will be supporting this bill as it seems to be a workable fallback position for the government to raise the required land rates revenue, given that its earlier bill to change the rating system more radically was not passed by the Assembly and given that to continue with the interim scheme that was put in place would mean a greater shock to ratepayers when it would eventually have been moved back to a system where a form of valuation was occurring.
With this bill the government is essentially reverting to the old rating system with an increase of $20 in the fixed charge component, which it says is to account for inflation, and the changed rating factor, to account for the significant changes in the value of ACT property. Although we support this bill as an interim measure, we support the view put by ACTCOSS that what is really needed is a full review of rates, not in isolation but as part of the more comprehensive overhaul of the suite of ACT land taxes.
I understand the government may feel a little miffed at its preferred scheme not being supported, but I trust it will take the responsible course of revisiting the rates issue in this broader way. The original principle underpinning this rates system is sound, in that it is based on relating the rates people pay to the wealth that they hold in their land lease and increases in its value over time.
However, I accept that there are problems with this system, one of which is the pressure it can place on low-income older people, the value of whose property has risen steadily, leading to difficulty in paying rates. The concession arrangements are not as effective as they should be in alleviating this problem, the concessions not reducing the burden adequately and many people unwilling to take up the deferment option and reduce the value of what may well be their only significant asset.
Further, the formula used to calculate rates in this bill is something of an anachronism, owing more to its history than to a supportable rationale for the present. For example, the threshold of $19,000 that is subtracted from the unimproved value no longer has any particular meaning or justification.
It is for these reasons that I support ACTCOSS' call for a comprehensive review of rates-as well as other land taxes-that will make a real attempt to grapple with equity considerations across the board. I accept that the government has attempted in good faith to develop a better system, but in the end the Assembly was not satisfied that it was an equitable or a necessarily efficient arrangement.
While I support this bill as a stop-gap measure, I urge the government to take on board the feedback and suggestions that it has received through the Public Accounts Committee, and its own consultation processes, and to consider the issue of rates broadly and from an equity perspective in the context of the full suite of land taxes.