Page 2063 - Week 06 - Thursday, 26 June 2008

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the Acting Treasurer argued that the figures used for the different jurisdictions were not comparable because they included rates and charges for local government services in the ACT but did not include these charges for other jurisdictions that provide local government services through local councils instead of through the state governments. She argued that general rates revenue should be removed from the calculations to make the ACT comparable with other jurisdictions.

The Acting Treasurer also stated in a media release on the subject: “The ACT government is in the middle of the pack in our taxation effort yet our overall level of service provision is the highest in the country—at 22 per cent above the national average.” Presumably, this service provision figure is the amount spent on services. Treasurer, does this figure for service provision at 22 per cent above the national average include services that are provided by local councils in other jurisdictions and, if so, what is the figure once these services are excluded?

MR STANHOPE: I will have to get the calculator out in order to be able to answer the latter part of the question asked by Mr Mulcahy, and I am more than happy to take that more technical part of the question on notice and provide the numbers. As Mr Mulcahy says, a recent media article reporting the Queensland budget, based on the published Queensland budget figures, led to a claim that Canberrans and Western Australians pay the highest taxes in the nation. The suggestion was, as Mr Mulcahy has said, based on a table on tax competitiveness included in Queensland budget paper No 2. I do have a copy of the particular table here with me, coincidentally.

Mr Mulcahy, in order to answer your question and put it in perspective, table 2 in Queensland budget papers includes general rates. General rates are a local government tax in the ACT but not in any other jurisdiction. So you have a table that purports to compare all jurisdictions in Australia on a like for like basis, but for the ACT, the only jurisdiction detailed in the table, general rates are included within the table and we are the only jurisdiction of all those compared in that table for whom general rates are included. So, just on that basis, you need to go no further, essentially.

Mr Mulcahy: You do. You have missed the key point of the question.

MR STANHOPE: Yes, but let me just conclude on that. You need to make the point clearly that Queensland Treasury simply did not understand that the ACT, the only two-tiered government in Australia, actually has to be regarded and treated differently from every other place in Australia where municipal taxes are separated out. It does not happen here in our budget papers in the way that it does in other jurisdictions. So the table simply is not able to be used to compare like with like. After removing general rates revenue—I guess this goes to your question, Mr Mulcahy—for the ACT to make the data comparable with other states, the ACT tax per capita is $2,510, well below the national average and lower than in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia.

The table as it would have appeared had it been published on a like by like basis has been provided to me. Indeed, this will perhaps answer your question, Mr Mulcahy, and I will table it. Official data from the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirm that the ACT is not a high taxing jurisdiction. According to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, our taxation effort is around

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