Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 4360 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
private rental market. The private rental market is nearly 20 per cent of housing in the ACT, and, when so many in the private rental market are experiencing housing stress, I think the government should be looking at what can be done to help alleviate that stress.
When we are talking about the private rental market, it is also important to recognise the number of students who access the private rental system, because of the lack of dedicated student accommodation. An increasingly large number of students are living in poverty conditions because they cannot access adequate housing. So let us look at what is going on in the private rental market and how we can make it better. That is what this motion calls for today, and I hope that the Assembly can support it.
MRS BURKE (5.40): Mr Speaker, I commend this motion from Ms Dundas relating to the affordability of housing. While it may be difficult to argue that any single policy or other factor results in reductions in affordability of housing, the other side of the coin is that different policies can add to that problem. One of these policies is the imposition of land tax. We have heard the analysis of the relative impact of land tax on the availability of housing in the ACT, so I will not repeat any of that material now. But members will recall that the Leader of the Opposition recently raised the issue of the impost created by the unacceptably high levels of stamp duty on conveyancing as an impediment to people accessing housing in the ACT. Again, it is unlikely that stamp duty is a determinant in the availability of housing, but there is no doubt that when aggregated with other imposts it exacerbates the problem of making housing more affordable.
There is another important aspect to this debate on which I want to spend a few minutes. This relates to the way in which we as a legislature should implement policies such as taxation measures. While supporting the intent of this motion, I want to offer some specific comments on the matter of possible land tax concessions. I believe it is essential to consider the impact of taxing measures as two discrete policy decisions-and, with the Treasurer sitting opposite, I hope he will listen to this bit and give his response.
Using land tax as an example, the first policy decision should be to achieve the objective of implementing a land tax policy in the most appropriate and straightforward manner possible. The question of considering how to ameliorate the impact of that taxing measure should be undertaken completely separately. The integrity of the taxing policy itself-in this instance, land tax-should remain intact. The consequence of this approach to policy making should be that the provision of concessions to lessen the impact of the tax is done in a way that does not make the original policy more complex than necessary and that enables the concessions to be targeted to specific groups in our community. In practice, this would mean that, on the one hand, the government would implement a land tax policy which would set the framework for the imposition of this tax and, as necessary, set out other components of the measure to give proper effect to the government's intentions. On the other hand, if the government decided that there were some groups that should not be subject to the full extent of the land tax, the concessional arrangements should be provided separately from the land tax policy itself.
The concessions would be available for specific categories of people-for example, to people whose household incomes fall below a certain threshold-and the concessions would be provided as a payment of some amount of compensation, through the remission of part of the land tax or in some other way.