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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3051 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

I heard earlier Mr Corbell waxing lyrical about the number of people taking buses these days. That is hardly surprising in view of what has been happening with the increase in motor vehicle imposts. I suppose the trick will be to get enough of them on the buses and then increase the bus fares as well so that more money will be coming into the government coffers.

This government has also been no kinder to home owners or to renters. On 16 May 2002 Mr Wood, in a ministerial statement on housing, concluded:

This government believes housing is the prerequisite for ensuring all members of our community have the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives and participate fully in the community, and it is the intention of this government to give priority to housing.

It is typical of this government to say one thing and do another quite the opposite. Unfortunately for home buyers, the only way that this government has given a priority to housing is as a source of revenue. When Mr Wood was making that statement in the Assembly, he was a member of a budget cabinet that decided to increase stamp duty by 22 per cent. The impact of this change on home buyers has been quite disastrous.

Recently, a house described as the worst house in Canberra was auctioned off in Giralang. Members may have seen reference to it in the newspapers. This house, which was what a real estate agent may call a renovator's special, was sold to the highest bidder for $288,000. There is no question that it was a wreck, and it had been for some considerable time. It had been abandoned for some years. At $288,000, it was just under the threshold at which higher rates of stamp duty start to kick in. If the worst house in Canberra just squeezes under that threshold, what chance does a young couple have of picking up a standard house under the threshold? The answer is zero, zilch, cactus. In fact, Mr Speaker, you can forget The Block; you would be flat out on this to get even a brick.

Recently, the HIA released figures showing that the average home buyer in Canberra pays $48,000 to the government. Every last cent of this $48,000 ends up in the Treasurer's budget. The Labor Party seeks to blame the GST for this problem. However, there are three reasons why that is a bogus allegation. To begin with, the GST ends up in Mr Quinlan's budget-not Mr Costello's-in the ACT. All GST revenue goes to the states and the territories. Incidentally, the state and territory governments were supposed to be phasing out stamp duties when the GST came on stream. We have yet to see that. Secondly, the GST is not levied on existing houses. Thirdly, the federal government has provided a grant of $7,000 to assist first home buyers, of which we are aware. Indeed, it was raised to $14,000 to help new home buyers into houses.

Mr Wood tried to blame this grant for the problem with housing affordability in Canberra. He said, "While I think first home buyer grants have helped a lot of people, the overall result seems to have been negative."I find that a difficult argument. But more to the point, what is Labor doing to help people who are in the private rental market? The answer is that they are not doing anything. As well as jacking up the stamp duty by 20 per cent, this Labor government has increased land tax by 16 per cent.

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