Page 814 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 2 April 2008

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afterthought. The government is awash with money, but it remains ravenous in its appetite for the wealth of others.

The financial reports for the ACT show us that there is ample scope for reducing the tax burden in the ACT. Unfortunately, I suspect that spending promises for the ACT election may derail any possibility of serious tax reform, but I hope that is not the case. Indeed, I think there are a lot of people who would hate to see the ACT election present the sickening display of pork-barrelling that we witnessed in the lead-up to the federal election last year.

In speaking on the bill that I introduced to repeal the utilities tax, I noted the stark contrast between the attitude of the Labor Party at a federal level with their ACT colleagues. In the federal sphere the Labor Party is making some considerable effort to reduce the size of government, but also to reduce the tax burden on Australian families. We will probably not know the extent of their plans until the next federal budget. However, if they are willing to act on the tough talk that they have made about their intentions to cut the size of government, and I hope that they are, then we may see some substantial financial reform occurring at the federal level. The ACT government could hardly be further away from this philosophy. Rather than looking for areas of reduction in government spending, they are continuing to tax and spend with complete impunity, with ACT residents paying for their egregious waste.

The government has now been in office for almost two full terms and has expanded substantially in size in that time. If we go to the area, for instance, of GST, the government has entirely squandered the opportunity afforded to them by the introduction of the GST. Rather than taking this as an opportunity to reduce the tax burden on ACT residents, which was the intent of that tax reform, they made only minimal repeals and then followed them up by substantially increasing existing taxes and charges and even introducing new ones. Even the reforms they are repealing have been dragged out over an extraordinary period of time, despite the moneys coming in properly from the commonwealth.

This action has been entirely against the spirit of the GST agreement, which was designed to allow the states an opportunity to reform their tax systems and to provide them with a guarantee of growth income to enable that to occur. Those who thought that the GST would engender serious tax reform at the state level did not count on the unshakable big government mentality of the ACT government.

I am glad to see that at the federal level the shadow Treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced that a full review of federal, state and territory taxation systems with a view to reducing the burden, complications and waste of taxation in Australia, is one of his objectives. There is certainly plenty of scope for such an inquiry as there are a great many problems with the tax system, especially within the ACT. I certainly hope that the ACT government will take heed of this inquiry and will seriously look at reducing the burden of taxation in the ACT. This bill presents an opportunity, as, of course, will be their forthcoming budget. However, their previous actions have failed to give me any confidence that they have an interest in the long-term action to reform our tax system. With an election coming up late this year, just about any kind of policy announcement is possible, and I would not be surprised to see the government

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