Page 4952 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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Treasurer. I guess in the manual of how to develop public policy, this is a fine example that would be included in the “how not to” section, and, as if this sad saga was not enough, there was more from this Treasurer and this government.

Let us look at the ill-fated parking space tax. This is another example of a taxing proposal that has been consigned to the dustbins containing the government’s policy failures. In the 2003-04 budget, the Treasurer announced that the government would introduce a parking space tax. At first blush, he seemed to try to portray this tax as a reasonable proposal. But things started to unravel very quickly once the Treasurer was asked questions about the detail of this policy. It quickly became evident that this Treasurer, this government, had not undertaken all the research and all the consultation that are essential before such a policy is introduced. This proposal represented genuine back-of-the-envelope stuff. The approach of the Treasurer seemed to be that there was such a tax in Sydney and Melbourne, so why not have one in Canberra. Forget the necessity to prepare such a policy proposal properly.

It is also pertinent to remember that this proposal was not rushed. The Treasurer said after the budget had been brought down, “No, the parking space tax did not come up late in the piece but in preparing the budget.” So what does the history of taxing proposals tell us about the processes followed by this Treasurer? That is quite easily summarised: inadequate research, incomplete consultation and the details of the tax were incomplete, particularly with respect to potential exemptions from the tax. Once again, the ACT community was subjected to an example of pathetic, even sloppy, public policy making.

Then, of course, we had the bushfire tax. In the aftermath of the bushfire disaster of January 2003, this government proposed a bushfire tax as part of the 2003-04 budget. This tax would have raised $5 million in each of two years to assist in the funding of recovery activities. We in the Liberal Party were convinced that such a tax was unnecessary as well as being discriminatory in its proposed application. We explained that the ACT had a wide range of potential sources of funds to assist in paying for the recovery from the bushfires and that it was premature of the ACT government to be talking about a bushfire tax when a number of alternative funding options were still available. The fact that this government failed to take full advantage of those options is just another indication of its incompetence.

The fourth example of the sloppy approach taken by this government to the formulation of public policy concerns the Treasurer’s attempt to change the rating policy in the ACT. As with the three previous instances of poor policy making, this proposal demonstrated the lack of research and development undertaken by the government. The Treasurer was questioned about the development of this rating proposal after he had announced it. In particular, he was asked about the impact of his rating policy on people living in different locations across Canberra.

We were most surprised to learn from the Treasurer that virtually no analysis had been made by the government of the way in which this rating policy would affect different people. The Treasurer was asked for any details of any research or modelling that had been undertaken to show the likely impact of the new rating policy. Mr Quinlan proudly told the Assembly that the only modelling he had done was one draft graph. Mind you, he first proposed a change to rating policy in June 2001.

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