Page 1418 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 May 2006

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wrongly quoted and misrepresented by the then Minister for Health and Minister for Planning when he concluded a debate on the Duties Amendment Bill in March this year. I am not reflecting on the debate itself or the vote. As you will recall, Mr Speaker, the opposition supported the amendments to the duties legislation, and no further comment on the bill is required.

The point of my remarks today is to correct the distortion by Minister Corbell of my remarks on the expectation of a lowering of the tax burden on business. The minister’s distortion is a rather old trick and, regrettably for the integrity of this Assembly, one in which he specialises. Mr Corbell asserted incorrectly that I said that there was a further commitment on the part of the ACT government to abolish certain taxes. That is in Hansard, 30 March 2006. But I did not say that. I said:

The federal government are quite correct in asking state and territory treasurers to meet their side of the bargain by reducing state taxes in return for receiving GST payments. Quite frankly, I think people are right to be upset with aspects of this whole deal. The GST came in and we understood this was going to see the end of a raft of these state taxes. Yes, some have gone, and some will eventually go and many will stay. But the sentiment and the understanding of the people of Australia when this new system of tax was developed were certainly much different from what we have finally seen.

I anticipated that the Acting Treasurer would try to twist my words. In the event, my suspicions were in fact borne out. That is why I said at the time:

I know the Chief Minister will leap to his feet and say: “Well, you know, we are doing literally what we were required. When we said we would look at the other taxes, it did not mean that we would do anything about them.” But I do not think that was the spirit. I do not think that is what the people of Australia understood to be the case. It is certainly not what I think the people of the ACT believe to be the case.

Contrary to what Mr Corbell has told you, I did not say that there was a further commitment on the part of the ACT government to abolish certain taxes. I and thousands of Canberrans wish that commitment was so, but it is not. And it is not likely to be under this high-taxing and big-spending government.

The problem for the government, and now the people of the ACT, is that two and three years ago there was an opportunity to remove these inefficient taxes on business, when its revenue was booming. Instead, it committed itself to a spending program on all sorts of new schemes and political vanities such as the arboretum, the prison and the Civic to Belconnen busway.

Now that the government’s budget is going further into the red—and I suspect it will be worse next year—the scope for tax cuts has virtually vanished. There is now even less prospect of removing the biggest disincentive to commercial property investment in the ACT; that is, stamp duty on commercial conveyances. The government has dug itself into a hole in which it now simply cannot afford to give tax relief and has to wear the consequences of reducing the attractiveness of Canberra as a place to live and do business.

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