Page 1495 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 April 2013

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What we have is a stunt where the government said all this money will go straight into the urban improvement fund. In February last year the Chief Minister commented about that fund where she said the results will be noticeable. Actually, they are noticeable because the money is not in the fund, and that is the problem for the government.

If they are hypothecating this money, as it seems to be—an explanation on how the arrangement works would be useful—and there is no money there, they have either got to take it from other sources to the detriment of other programs or they just blow the deficit out further. The Chief Minister is right that the results have been noticeable, but for what it is failing to deliver to Canberra in terms of better local services and not for its success. The industry characterised it as:

… a complicated and unworkable new way to fund the maintenance and upgrade of municipal services, which the community expects to be covered through the rates and land tax we all pay for these services.

Indeed, we have already paid. It is a double dip, because this is a government that cannot manage its budget. But it was probably best summarised by the Treasurer himself, who last year conceded that:

Our Urban Improvement program is in arrears.

Promising Canberrans improved basic services with an implausible program is tantamount to doing nothing at all. It is an empty promise, as so many of the government’s promises are. In essence, this government has interfered with housing and rent prices, it has created a disincentive for future development and, at the same time, it continues to underfund basic services because it is not collecting the revenue it thought it would.

So what does this mean for Canberra residents? It means nothing more than having to pay more and get less. We have heard that so many times about this government: people get to pay more but time and time and time again they get less. The Allen Consulting Group was commissioned by the Property Council, and they outlined significant adverse consequences of the charge which applied when landowners seek to change how a property will be used. The report said that the true impact of the charge may take time to be fully realised but said evidence that it stifled investment was already emerging as the development application numbers fell. The ACT government processed 158 applications requiring lease variation in the 2009-10 financial year and 187 the following year. The report said the current financial year to mid-May—so almost a full year—recorded 64 relevant applications. That is in the very first year of operation. The government refuses to accept that.

At 6 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.

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