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governance and integrity, which ACTEW is undertaking at our request, the structural review we will be commissioning and the ICRC draft price determination. We consider these were positive and useful conversations.
Finally, as has already been announced, the ACTEW chair, Mr John Mackay, announced his intention to resign on 30 June 2013. Mr Mackay’s significant contribution to ACTEW and to ActewAGL over the past 15 years was acknowledged by both the board and the voting shareholders. The government will now undertake a public advertising process to find a suitable replacement for Mr Mackay. I thank members for taking note of the information that I have presented today.
Revenue Legislation (Tax Reform) Amendment Bill 2013
Debate resumed from 11 April 2013, on motion by Mr Barr:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.52): I thank Mr Barr for introducing this bill for debate in the chamber today and the briefing that his office arranged for my office. As the Treasurer has already articulated, this bill will formally abolish commercial land tax, expand the eligibility criteria of the rates deferral scheme and change the formula for calculating general rates by removing the tax-free threshold. These are all things that occurred in the current budget and this is simply removing them now from the statute books. Taken on their own, we do not have strong objections to these changes. However, the Treasurer’s explanatory statement for this bill noted:
General Rates is used as the base on which to replace revenue loss as a result of abolishing inefficient taxes.
Let us refresh the chamber’s memory on what these tax reforms amount to. Under the cover of last year’s ACT budget, the Treasurer announced a tax reform that amounted to a plan to triple general rates for Canberra home owners. What the Treasurer claims to be a broad-based and equitable tax reform is simply a cunning plan to shift the tax burden from homebuyers to home owners—so now home owners do not pay a one-off stamp duty hit; now they keep paying and paying and paying. What is worse is that we are not told how much we will pay. The government is yet to inform taxpayers of how far these increases will go. In the absence of that data one must do the maths, and if you do the math of what would cover these losses then rates must triple. Then again, we are told that to compensate for the rate increases, stamp duty will also be phased out. But, of course, that goes into your rates.
However, if you recall, in the last budget, stamp duty levels increased for the two highest value categories—and, might I remind this chamber, with no significant decreases in most categories over the four years shown. Given the 20-year time frame the government was talking about for the Treasurer’s tax reform to conclude, whatever promises this government has made will be well and truly beyond the use-by date of the government.