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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 November 2007) . . Page.. 3386 ..

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Notice No 4, Private Members’ business, relating to City and urban scapes, being postponed until the next sitting and Order of the day No 16, Private Members’ business, relating to the Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Repeal Bill 2007, being called on forthwith.

Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Repeal Bill 2007

Debate resumed from 17 October 2007, on motion by Mr Mulcahy:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

(Quorum formed.)

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (4.34): Mr Speaker, I apologise for my short absence from the chamber.

The Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Repeal Bill seeks to repeal the Utilities (Network Facilities Tax) Act 2006—the utilities act. The utilities act commenced on 21 December 2006 and introduced the utilities network facilities tax as a charge on the ownership of network infrastructure on ACT land. The act was implemented as a revenue initiative included in the 2006-07 budget and was neither a replacement nor a supplement for any pre-existing charge.

The government is not supporting this bill. The introduction of the utilities tax formed part of a structural reform package in the 2006-07 budget that aimed to align ACT expenditure and revenue. The reform was necessary as there has been, as we all know, a mismatch in the territory’s revenue and expenditures since self-government—something that successive governments have been aware of and have sought to deal with in their own ways. The ACT, simply put, was not earning enough to sustain its expenditure. The budget position has improved following the government’s structural reform, in particular, its focus on efficiencies. The continued strength of the territory’s economy has also supported the improved budget position. The continued confidence in the territory’s economy is also attributable to the government’s prudent financial management.

Mr Speaker, it would be imprudent to undo the reform that has supported the improved budget position. Cutting taxes, which the Liberal Party proposes today through this particular bill, is, of course, an option if there is capacity in the budget. The government has not adopted such an option and, instead, has made a decision to use its additional budget capacity to make strategic investments in the future of the community. Significant investment in our community made by the government would not have been possible without the government’s prudent financial management and its focus on structural reform and efficiency. This tax is an integral part of that reform.

The utilities tax raised $8.6 million in its first six months of operation. It is estimated to raise $69.2 million over the current year and the forward years. Revenue raised

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