Page 3495 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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territories. Tax reform, such as in relation to stamp duties on commercial leases, should be seriously examined, and not just disregarded because the larger Labor states tell us that that is the party line to which we must adhere.

That is what happened. I saw the letter that was signed by our Treasurer and a group of others. They said, “We are not even going to talk about it.” Just because that is the decision of those up the road in Sydney, why should they be dictating things to Canberra? The same people who said, “This is the way you boys will follow the line” turned around and said, “And people in Canberra are getting way too much GST. Let’s rip some of that back because we need to prop up the mismanagement of the New South Wales Labor government.”

We should take an approach whereby we seize opportunity rather than being dragged down the road of following every other state. I have said in this house before that the Queensland Labor government, to give credit where credit is due, is not as willing simply to acquiesce with all these instructions from the Labor mates. They know that they can seize an opportunity by going out and running their own race, and that state’s economy has prospered because of the entrepreneurial attitude that was prevalent under the last regime and, in fact, much of the same approach to doing business applies to this regime. They know that attracting business is a competitive business.

The low unemployment rate in the ACT and the rest of Australia is making it more difficult than in the past to recruit new workers, especially ones with skills. Employers must therefore look outside the square to seek opportunities for recruitment. For example, there are many people in Canberra who have taken early retirement because of counterproductive incentives in their superannuation entitlements. Often they are people who are talented and experienced and who have skills that would be of great value to a broad range of employers.

A change to taxation and superannuation arrangements is needed so that older people have an incentive to remain in the work force if they choose. I would urge the Treasurer and the ACT government to join with their state colleagues in encouraging such changes at the federal level, not simply to fight with Canberra. The current public service superannuation arrangements significantly disadvantage people who, under the old scheme, do not get out by the time they are aged 55 or, under the new scheme, by the time they are aged 60.

There are some employers showing initiative in this area. I think in particular of the ANZ Bank, which announced this week that older employees were going to be welcome and were going to be taken on and encouraged to continue working in their organisation. I am not necessarily an advocate of the banks as the champions of good management practice, but I believe the ANZ Bank showed great thinking in demonstrating that they are willing to look outside the square and encourage older workers to stay on. They indicated that six per cent of their 18,000 employees were aged over 55 and recognise that retaining older employees will have several advantages. As the demographics are changing in Canberra and in Australia, we need to start to realise that we have a significant resource that we are losing because of the way in which our superannuation and tax arrangements have been structured. The ACT could be innovative in encouraging a new approach.

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