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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3046 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

spokesman when he claimed that it was merely revenue raising? When the Liberals do it, it is bad; when the Labor Party does it, it is good. But it is all about revenue and these people will be measured by their words. That is another example of Labor saying one thing in opposition and doing another in government. They are phoney and opportunistic. Who can believe a word they say.

The Canberra Liberals reduced vehicle registration costs for motorists by $10 million. The first Quinlan budget slapped the tax back on again. As a result, the ACT has the highest charges in Australia for vehicle registration and third-party insurance. The Labor Party opposed tip fees in 1995-96, despite the fact that it was clearly an environmentally responsible move. It is good to see the conversion, the road to Damascus. In his first budget, Mr Quinlan increased tip fees to earn an additional $1.56 million from this source. Again, Labor said one thing in opposition and another in government. You just cannot trust them.

This government has not been shy in putting up existing taxes as well. Mr Quinlan increased stamp duty by 22 per cent in his first budget. As a consequence of Mr Quinlan's grab for cash, according to the HIA figures, the cost of ACT government taxes adds just under $50,000 to the cost of a new house. Thirty years ago, you could get a pretty good house in Canberra for $50,000.

My colleague Mr Cornwell will be speaking on the impact of ACT government taxes and charges when he speaks later in this debate. When in government, the Canberra Liberals planned to increase the threshold at which small businesses started to pay payroll tax to $1.5 million from July 2001. Mr Quinlan cancelled this increase in the threshold in his budget five days before it was due to start. To add insult to injury, the government changed the formula, effectively increasing the rate of payroll tax by 1.1 per cent. The people of Canberra, understandably, wonder why Labor taxes employment and puts people out of jobs.

The Treasurer is squandering two golden opportunities. The first opportunity is to rationalise the territory's ramshackle tax collection system once the GST comes on stream. State and territory treasurers are supposed to be reviewing stamp duties in particular as part of the introduction of the new tax system. The Treasurer should be doing so, rather than dreaming up more complex taxes that make our tax system even more ramshackle and onerous.

The Treasurer should look at raising the threshold for payroll tax and at the payroll tax structure to reduce the impact on employment. The Treasurer should be looking at reducing the tax burden met by ordinary Canberrans, as the Canberra Liberals were doing. Instead, his two budgets have dramatically increased the tax burden on ordinary Canberrans. A $90 million increase in taxes, fees and fines is a massive burden. The Treasurer claims that the taxes are paying for improved services. But he would say that, wouldn't he?

Canberrans are, rightly, sceptical of these claims. One has only to look at the rising waiting lists to understand the doubt that they would have on this issue. It is time that the Labor government, not for itself but for the people of Canberra, started to reduce the tax burdens on its citizens and keep its promise to deliver low tax rates.

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