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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5040 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

in their own right. They were already the owners of property and were seeking to own more property, using a bit of help from the taxpayer.

Where is Mr Quinlan's concern about those on lower incomes? Where is his social conscience? He made great play about those on lower incomes when he sought to amend the rates regime in the ACT earlier this year but, since this issue emerged, there has been no sign of concern at all. The Treasurer's alleged concern for those on lower incomes is ephemeral. It is a concern he brings out when it suits him but which he subsumes on other occasions.

If the New South Wales government acted on its own to resolve this abuse, what was there to stop the ACT government doing the same? The way in which the ACT Treasurer responded to the situation is disappointing. I do not believe he acted honourably-according to the public reports about how the ACT government reacted to this problem when it was raised in October. On the contrary, he ducked for cover by saying: it is not my fault; it is the fault of the Commonwealth. Mr Quinlan is quoted as also saying in the same report in the Canberra Times that this is Mr Costello's scheme. The Treasurer has not gained any integrity out of the handling of this issue. With those comments, the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill.

MS TUCKER (4.47): This bill acts to prevent people under the age of 18 applying for the first home owners grant and introduces an additional requirement that people who receive a grant must reside in their first home for a period of six consecutive months. I support these changes, which target the grant to those who have a genuine need to buy their first home and may prevent some people who might not be eligible taking advantage of this grant.

I note that part of this amendment bill refers to the fact that the Commissioner for ACT Revenue will be referred to to decide on genuine cases where a person under the age of 18 might apply for the grant, and also where there are genuine cases for waiving the requirement for six months residency. These mechanisms should ensure that individual cases can be considered by an independent body.

The scrutiny report clarifies that the provisions of the act regarding appeals would appear to permit an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal against significant decisions of the commissioner. There are always concerns about retrospective legislation but I think that, in this case, it is justified. I am also interested in how this legislation was declared to be an urgent bill. I think there are arguments for it, although I wonder why we keep having so many of these urgent bills, and what is going on with the process. We have been informed that Treasury, who have been administering applications for the grant, have been making it clear that any applications for people under 18 years old will be affected by this retrospective legislation. That sounds fair.

The original first home owners grant bill was introduced as part of the establishment of the GST in accordance with the inter-governmental agreement on Commonwealth/state financial relations. At the time this bill was introduced I was concerned that the grant was not targeted to those most in need, rather than being equally available to all. I am still concerned about that. Now that we have a housing affordability crisis in Australia, I am also concerned about the contribution of the first home owners grant to price inflation in the housing market. There is a good argument that the grant has benefited

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