Page 815 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 2 April 2008

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toss the ACT taxpayer a bone, or, rather, allow them to keep some of their own bones in this year’s budget.

Whether or not we can look forward to any reduction in taxes, it is fairly clear that this government has a strong and philosophical commitment to big government that will permeate its long-term decisions on taxation and spending. The government is certainly in a position to provide substantial tax reform if they were so inclined. As I have said, they are currently awash with money, and between the enormous GST revenues that are coming in from the commonwealth and the government’s own increases in taxation, they are receiving more revenue than ever before.

In the December quarter financial report, we saw that the trend of an intentional underestimation of tax revenues has continued with the actual tax take showing the excesses of the current tax regime in the ACT. This report revealed another $57 million in allegedly unanticipated tax revenue this financial year, including $23.1 million in commercial conveyance revenue, $23.4 million in residential conveyance revenue and $9.5 million in stamp duty on shares and securities.

Since I was elected to this Assembly almost four years ago, we have not got it right yet in terms of forecasting for revenue in this territory, and the errors have been significant, not small. There can no longer be any doubt this seems to be an intentional policy on either the part of the ACT government or the Treasury to try and maintain the enormous levels of taxation in the ACT and hope that they can be passed by an unsuspecting public. The fact is that each quarterly report has shown a higher and higher level of allegedly unanticipated tax revenue, with the Treasury being unwilling to adjust its estimation methodology to reflect the consistent underestimation of revenue. Clearly, the government’s estimations of their own future revenues are heavily biased and in need of methodological reform.

For years the people of the ACT have been told that the tax increase proposed by the government was a necessary measure to fund its services. This nonsense, however, has now been utterly discredited by the government’s own financial reports. I am not interested in what the average spending is in Tasmania or South Australia; what I am interested in and what the people of Canberra are interested in is reasonable tax levels to fund an appropriate level of services, not a situation justifying high tax by saying this is what they do in other states.

Mr Corbell: You are not interested in the facts.

MR MULCAHY: The facts are very evident, Mr Speaker. If Mr Corbell read the more detailed reports of the Grants Commission’s analysis on the comparative situation of state finances, he would understand that they put in there a significant qualifier in terms of comparing things on a state-by-state basis, and they also highlight the ACT as being unique because of its role in provision of municipal services. They are the facts, and not the sanitised ones.

The people of the ACT have borne the burden of these increases in taxation to allow the government to build a war chest of revenue ready for the next election. Cynical as it is, I am quite sure that is what the plan is. The December quarter report shows a

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