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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 August 2008) . . Page.. 2906 ..

implicit in majority government means that more recent tax proposals have gotten through and have affected the public.

The fire and emergency services levy fails all the tests of good policy. It fails all the tests of good taxes. This levy should be repealed as soon as it is possible to do so in a responsible manner, in a reasonable manner. We will do that. I note that the Canberra Business Council, in its taxation pre-budget submission, says:

… phase out or reduce over time the Fire and Emergency Services Levy as a reasonable and realistic tax relief measure …

That is what we will do. We will phase it out over time when we are able to. This levy should be repealed as soon as it is possible to do so in a reasonable and responsible manner. We in government will do all we can to remove this and other taxes as appropriate. At this time, however, we will not be supporting the bill.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.50): From what I am hearing in the chamber, and given the noise I am hearing from the left-hand side, it looks as though the government will be supporting this piece of legislation. I think that is what I am hearing, but we will see later on, I guess.

Mr Mulcahy asked me yesterday whether I would be supporting this bill, and at the time I said, “Well, of course, intuitively it seems attractive.” In fact, when you look at it, it is not a particularly good idea to repeal the legislation. The Greens are not convinced that the levy, of itself, is unfair and inequitable. Of course, we have received lots of complaints about it, just as the Liberals have.

It is interesting to hear the argument regarding inequity being driven by the Property Council and other commercial ratepayers. But it would seem to me that, at this stage, if anyone is doing well in the ACT economy, it is the commercial property owners. On the whole, these are the ones who are best able to afford to pay more tax. Whether it should be this tax or not is another question.

I certainly supported Mr Mulcahy’s last unpopular tax excision exercise because the impost that he was then seeking to remove, the utilities and network facilities tax, was inequitable, and there was considerable agitation at the community sector level for it to be removed because of that inequity. At the time, the rumour was that the ACT government wanted to do the excision itself as part of a more humane vote-winning budget, but in fact it has not done so yet. Maybe we will have an election announcement soon that will offer the Canberra people a more equitable tax system with more expansive concession schemes in place, and even a decision to drop that tax.

This levy, the fire and emergency services levy, is part of our rate structure, just as rubbish and recycling removal and roads maintenance are. If we want the government to provide fire and emergency services, the funds have to come from somewhere. We all know that after the 2003 bushfires there have been more demands than ever on our emergency services. A lot of money has gone in to improving their ability to respond, and this costs taxpayers.

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