Page 1252 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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That brings me to the final point about what made John Button such a special person: his great sense of humour. I remember that when Ted Quinlan was leaving this place he spoke about how he believed it was very important to bring a sense of humour to this place. John Button said on many occasions that most politicians take the role far too seriously. Having now been to a couple of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences, I can say that that is certainly the case in the vast majority of instances; it is not confined to the ACT or Australia by any means.

Comments from all sides of politics in the last few days have shown how well respected John Button was. As was said in one of the articles I read today, it would be schmaltz to think that John Button did not have people who were detractors; whether one of us would not have our own detractors is questionable. But by and large John Button was a man who was respected on all sides. It is a sad time for the country that we have lost this giant of a man.

Utilities tax

2020 summit

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (6.03): I want to speak about two matters. First of all, I want to address some remarks made by the Chief Minister in response to my speech about the utilities tax. It was one of those occasions when I believe the Chief Minister heard some words but did not hear the rest of the speech; we got, I guess, what was a fairly typical and predictable reaction.

I want to reiterate that the reason I supported the abolition of the utilities tax is that it is a flat tax, which makes it regressive. It is certainly not equivalent to saying that services should be cut. That is a very handy attack point, but it belittles the arguments that have been put to the government by organisations such as CARE, Care Inc Financial Counselling Service, ACTCOSS and the Essential Services Consumer Council.

We know that there has been $17 million in revenue, but it pales into insignificance beside the unexpected surplus of $100 million or so that the government has announced. The Greens are not people who just go around saying that we should abolish all taxes. We think there is an alternative to the utilities tax. We think that taxes and other revenue raising measures can perform more than one function. Apart from raising money, they can serve environmental and social outcomes.

There are quite a few things that fit that. If we had an inquiry—perhaps the next public accounts committee might have time to do it if it is not so busy responding to Auditor-General’s reports—we could look at ways in which we could use our taxes to help us make the most important changes that we know that we as a society need to make.

I want to segue into the 2020 summit that I went to on the weekend, as Mr Barr remarked. It was a really revitalising event. I am, in this case, full of praise. I could make criticisms of the conference, but I do not see the point in that. I would like to commend the Chief Minister for calling it. I do not know if the purposes for which he called it match the results that were achieved.

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