Page 1231 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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How has this strategy been realised? There is a sad history of failed attempts to impose new taxes on the long-suffering Canberra community, and this history has been despite the agreement by all governments in Australia to remove so-called nuisance taxes under the 1999 intergovernmental agreement that was part of the implementation of the GST.

Consider the history of this government’s failed tax policies. First of all we had the rating policy—this was a corker. The government proposed a complete change to the way in which general rates were determined in the ACT. They proposed a policy for which virtually no analysis was done. Indeed, the then Treasurer, Mr Quinlan, admitted that it sounded like a good idea at the time. It was defeated in the Assembly, and rightly so, because what it proposed was that if you were an existing owner you got charged tax at one rate but if you moved in after a certain period of time you got charged tax at a different rate. So much for equity.

Then, of course, we had the transfer of business assets. This policy imposed a tax on the acquisition of business assets at the same rate as the conveyance duty. It was supposed to raise an estimated $1.7 million. Then, of course, we had the bushfire tax, which the government also had to withdraw. It proposed a fixed rate of tax on all rateable properties for two years, raising $10 million over the two years. It was knee jerk, it was unnecessary, and this proposal was also abandoned after pressure from the opposition in the Assembly.

Then we had the loan security tax. This policy would have imposed a tax on secured loans valued at more than $1 million, supposedly raising half a million dollars for the government. This proposal was abandoned after the government realised belatedly that all the other states were abolishing this particular tax.

Then we had the pay parking in Barton fiasco. This proposal had to be abandoned when it was established that the ACT government could not introduce the tax. Who could forget the parking space tax? This measure was proposed in the 2003-04 budget to apply in the four city centres in Canberra, supposedly raising $2.5 million. Again, the policy was poorly researched, even more poorly explained, and the government failed to undertake proper consultation. Yet again, yes, it was another tax initiative that the government finally abandoned.

Then we had the motor vehicle tax. The Stanhope government sought to impose stamp duty on motor vehicles based on the list price of a vehicle. In the face of fierce opposition from the Liberal opposition, from industry and the community, when the government became aware of the stupidity of this proposal the proposal was, yet again, withdrawn.

Then we had the utility land use permit. The Stanhope government sought to impose the utility land use permit as a charge on utilities where they occupied unleased territory land. It was estimated to raise $16.5 million in a full year. This policy became the utilities tax, which is the subject of this bill, after the government had to modify it after consulting with utilities companies such that it would impose a lower administrative burden on the utilities—yet again, lack of consultation.

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