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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4721 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

I am drawing a line through the last decision taken in this place. I am sure that this particular motion will get up as well. But let me state clearly this is wrongheaded and illogical.

MS DUNDAS (6.06): I thank all members who have participated in this debate that has spread over a month. I think the important thing about this debate is that it will inform the work that we are asking the government to do. Mr Quinlan has just again reiterated his concerns about the Assembly asking the government to do work. I think what we have done is put forward some ideas in the debate that will inform what it is we would like to see as an outcome.

I would like to, I guess, also put this in the context of when members of this Assembly do come forward with a new proposal or a new piece of legislation. Usually what happens is the government laughs and says, "That is ridiculous; where's your work, where's your evidence? Really this is something that should be looked at by the people who work in the departments."

The government is putting us in a lose/lose situation. We can't ask for the government to do the work in the first instance, or if we do put forward actual proposals they are laughed at and we are told that the government should actually be looking at this because it is in the purview of government to fix these problems. I am a bit disheartened by the attitude of the government towards the debates that are taking place in this Assembly, especially on private members day.

I do think we have had now a number of debates about rates, and I think we all agree that the concession system needs an overhaul. Even looking at the rates pamphlet put out by the ACT Revenue Office, there is some assistance available to pensioners by way of a deferment. It is not a reduction in rates; it is a deferment for people who are receiving unemployment or other benefits. But in the end those rates still have to be paid at the same high level.

I think we can do the work, look at what is happening to low-income earners. The ACT Affordable Housing Taskforce report showed that there is acute housing stress among housing owners. People who are buying their own properties, living in their own properties, are suffering from a whole range of ongoing costs that are putting them in severe hardship. The work needs to be done to see how we can help these people.

I know that during the debate on the substantive motion the Treasurer said he was a bit concerned about what we mean by low-income earners. Some people are often in and out of work and it is hard to calculate what we mean by low income. I think that clearly indicates why we need to look at this and examine it. Rates do impact on people's ability to pay for other things such as food and transport; they impact on their ability to pay for their children's education.

If we can have a discussion about what we mean by low income-who it is we want to help in this society or those who are in most need of help in this society-and work to provide that assistance, I think we will be well on the path of doing what it is governments are meant to do. So I hope that this work can be done and can be done in concert with the work being done by the Public Accounts Committee into revenue and that when these reports are tabled next year it will inform the debate that we have around

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