Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3092 ..
presentation speech that there has been extensive consultation, including a discussion paper in 2003, further discussion in 2005 and a comparison with other jurisdictions.
This appears to be an exemplary process. I would imagine that a department would have had to report to the minister or to cabinet upon it. It would be helpful for members if such reports were available to the Assembly. I do not see why a report or a summary of such consultation could not be included with the explanatory statement as a matter of course. However, when I raised this as an initiative in the past, the ACT government invented a few spurious reasons as to why such an up-front approach was undesirable. Perhaps the winds of change suggested by the October election will, among other matters, soften this government’s attitude to that kind of openness.
In regard to the bill itself, certainly the decision to echo the provisions in New South Wales and Victoria makes sense, given that there is no other specific social outcome that the government is seeking here, other than to tighten anti-avoidance provisions.
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) (5.48), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate and for their foreshadowed support. The Duties (Landholders) Amendment Bill amends the Duties Act to tighten the current anti-avoidance landholder provisions. The intention of these provisions is to stop private companies and unit trusts that own ACT land from being used as a mechanism for avoiding conveyance rates of duty. This avoidance has been achieved by indirectly transferring interests in land via the transfer of shares or units, which attracts duty at the lower marketable security rate.
The landholding provisions have been the subject of extensive consultation, beginning in November 2003, when a discussion paper was first released, and again in 2005. The review of these provisions also included reviewing changes made in other jurisdictions. Where appropriate, the ACT has sought to align with other jurisdictions, particularly New South Wales and Victoria.
The changes are neither a shift in policy nor an expansion of the tax base; rather, they are a tightening of the existing provisions to better protect the territory’s revenue base, ensuring that the original intentions of the landholder provisions are maintained. A number of transactions are already dutiable under the existing provisions and have been taxed accordingly.
The existing provisions charge conveyance duty on the transfer of an interest in a landholding entity where the purchaser of the interest is entitled to a distribution of greater than 50 per cent of all the property of the entity. Where the purchaser is entitled to 50 per cent or less of the property, duty at the lower marketable security rate is charged.
Under this bill, landholder duty will apply where an acquisition is made of an entity that holds land in the ACT of 50 per cent or more in a private company and 20 per cent or more in a private unit trust scheme. The proposed ownership levels are sufficiently high to minimise the impact on legitimate investment activity in the territory. The purchase of 50 per cent or more in a private company or 20 per cent or