Page 4461 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 14 October 2009

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Supplementary answers to questions without notice

Taxation—GST payments

ACTION bus service—subsidies

MS GALLAGHER: I have got a couple of matters from yesterday in relation to a question from Mrs Dunne around what arguments were used to support the retention of the allowance for the low number of volunteer firefighters. The answer is that the ACT demonstrated to the commission the below-average number of volunteer firefighters in the territory relative to other jurisdictions. These representations were founded on evidence from the ABS and Productivity Commission.

The ACT also argued that our status as the national capital impacts on the geographic layout of the territory due to the previous planning decisions of the commonwealth government. These planning decisions resulted in the territory having a high proportion of its landmass designated as national parks or wildlife reserves. With relatively few rural landholders compared to other states because of the designated areas, fewer individuals have a self-interest in joining volunteer fire-fighting services. On this basis, the ACT argued that a volunteer firefighters allowance should continue to be assessed for the territory.

Mr Coe asked me a question around ACTION. In regard to the member’s question, which was why the commission had concluded that there should no longer be any allowance for the subsidy which is provided to ACTION to compensate principally for free parking in the parliamentary triangle, the allowance and the effects on the subsidy to ACTION of the free parking in the parliamentary triangle have been discontinued because, while free parking may lead to lower bus patronage and lower fare revenue, the ACT has not shown that it continues to affect the level of subsidy it must provide. This would be the case only if there was unused capacity on parliamentary triangle services during peak hour. Increased patronage resulting from the removal of free parking may in fact increase the level of subsidy required if additional services were required.

Why has the commission made that finding? The reason for discontinuing this allowance appears to be that the commission has had to use judgement to determine the cost of the effects on the subsidy to ACTION of free parking in the parliamentary triangle. For the 2010 review, the commission has placed additional emphasis on simplification, reliability and materiality. As the ACTION allowance is based partly on judgement, it has been discontinued on reliability grounds. This is no different from a number of other allowances and costs being discontinued for other states when they have been based partly on judgement and were not considered to be reliable enough.

Further, during question time, in relation to Mr Smyth’s continued questions which he already knows the answer to, which is why he is wasting everybody’s time here, the answers—

Mr Smyth: You didn’t know the answer to it.

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