Page 1494 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 April 2013

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trend terms in May last year and have fallen by 60 per cent in trend terms in the year before that. In other words, this ACT Labor cash grab is having an impact—and it is not a positive one—on housing in the ACT.

In light of this, it is probably not surprising that the latest consolidated financial reports noted that lower taxation revenue by $26.36 million due to less conveyancing revenue than expected reflected the continuing softening in the housing market and the timing of payments for the lease variation charge. We have this notion that it is somehow locked up in the timing of the payments for the lease variation charge. The payments are only due if the developments go ahead. If the developments are not going ahead, there is no timing because there will be no payment. That is why in the last quarter the payments were so small. You can say there are a number of DAs approved, but if the builders do not take up the approvals and go to construction, then the government is not going to get the tax.

The problem is, of course, the flow-on effect, and we see the softening in the conveyancing charges as well. The problem for the government is that one clearly affects the other. So you are losing the lease variation tax, but it is also affecting your conveyancing. The other side of that is that if people are not going for infill, they have to go to greenfield sites, and the greenfield sites, of course, require more infrastructure. That seems to go against all the stated policies of the Greens-Labor alliance over there, but they blithely continue to do it.

It is about time we found out through this motion the full story on the lease variation tax and the urban improvement fund so we can have a sensible outcome to make sure we get the infill we all say we are in favour of and which things like the light rail will be dependent upon. If there is not infill, even though we are going to build the light rail no matter what the cost, the return off the light rail and the subsidy will be less and the subsidy will have to be greater.

The Treasurer credits the lease variation tax underperformance to payment timings. But I prefer the Chief Minister’s explanation from 1 May where she conceded that the tax was hurting. Chief Minister Gallagher said:

We've tried to do that but we haven't had enormous success … In the last month I think we've had one request … so the developers at the moment aren't inundating us with that sort of application.

This, of course, is in relation to brownfield developments converting office space to apartments. They have killed the golden goose. What we need now is acknowledgement that that has happened and how we are going to fix this problem.

Given the underperformance of the lease variation tax, this will also have a negative impact, therefore, on the government’s urban improvement fund, which, of course, is funded by the lease variation tax. This fund was a political stunt in the lead-up to the last election and an attempt to slur the developers—“The developers must pay their fair share. The developers must contribute.” Well, of course, they do. The developers put their money out there. They take the risk; not the government. The developers employ large numbers of people in one of our biggest industries, but it is not enough for this government.

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