Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 26 June 2008) . . Page.. 2047 ..
impositions on the private sector, which, while resulting in a net financial gain to the agency collecting the tax, result in unreasonable expense or opportunity time lost to private citizens or businesses.
Because this government still has not delivered on its stated commitment to triple-bottom-line accounting principles, it is still the case that government agencies are able to externalise costs and maximise revenue by forcing private citizens to internalise the costs of regulatory compliance. I am sure that this situation sometimes occurs without any malice or even awareness on the part of the agency concerned. A triple-bottom-line discipline would highlight the social costs of regulatory measures and ensure that, when unreasonable regulatory imposts were created or maintained, it would be the result of a conscious decision to do so.
In light of what I have just said, it should be obvious that I welcome the abolition of the two $20 duties in this bill. I do have some misgivings about the abolition of section 59, which imposes a $200 duty on the establishment of a trust. Surely, the government can turn a profit from a $200 duty. Trusts do serve some very laudable purposes, including the fact that trust deeds provide some degree of legal certainty that particular values and ethical standards will be maintained in future in regard to the management of some specified property or sum of money.
They also provide some degree of reassurance that a particular beneficiary’s interests—often a cherished family member—will be paramount in the disposition of a particular investment or property. But having said that, I suspect that the predominant motivation behind trust formation is tax avoidance. Exploiting the tax-free threshold for each dependent beneficiary is a gift to the financially literate and it is undeniable that trusts are a predominantly middle and upper-class phenomenon. So I am a bit concerned that the government chose to abolish this particular duty when there would seem to be other duties whose abolition would result in greater social and financial benefits.
This is the government that launches into paroxysms of outrage whenever I, or the Liberal or Mulcahy parties, suggest that some particular tax or duty should be abolished or reduced. So I expect consistency on this matter, and I look forward to the Chief Minister telling us which widowed mothers’ refuges are going to be closed and which bus services or kiddies’ sports facilities are going to be slashed. I expect that the minister will be keen to justify the social and financial consequences that we are told are the inevitable consequence of any suggestion from this side of the chamber that any particularly inefficient or socially or environmentally regressive taxes or charges should be reduced.
I am impressed by the creative solution to the problem, which has been solved by the government’s last-minute amendment, which creates a prospective retrospectivity commencement clause. You do not see one of those every day. This is, of course, one consequence of the opposition’s no-confidence motion. I will, however, be supporting the bill.
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) (12.03), in reply: The