Page 410 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 17 February 2015
Over the last few years we have seen many of this government’s policies increase the pressure on household budgets. Most notably, this government is tripling everybody’s rates. While the Chief Minister, the Treasurer, may well be in denial about this fact, it is undeniable that households around the ACT are seeing significant annual increases in their rate notices. The increases are often well in excess of 10 per cent. In last year’s budget, the Treasurer handed down an average $153 rate increase to Canberra households. This was a 10 per cent increase and painted much the same picture as in 2013, when there was an average $139 rate increase for the average Canberra household. That was 10 per cent too.
We have a situation whereby we are seeing rate increases of 10 per cent compounding. Combined over the last couple of budgets, Canberra households are worse off to the tune of $292. Does any household in the ACT actually believe that they are in a better situation, that they are getting better services in exchange for this additional payment? The $292 the average household has paid is far from an insignificant amount. Unfortunately, we have got at least two more budgets before the next election, before the people of Canberra have an opportunity to put the brakes on Mr Barr’s increases.
On top of rates, ACTION bus fares have risen markedly over the last couple of years. While sometimes they can be considered minimal, they have a huge impact on the family budget. What is most insulting about these fare increases is the fact that the services are actually declining. People are paying more but getting less. In the last three years, customer satisfaction with ACTION dropped by 13 per cent. Close to a third of buses do not operate on the scheduled time. People will rightly pay for a product that they are happy with. They will rightly pay for a perception, for actual value. But to increase ACTION bus fares when services are getting worse is simply not good enough and is very hard to justify. The government must and should do better.
I would like to touch on parking charges here in the ACT. Since I have joined the Assembly, parking charges have almost doubled in the city. Whilst there will always be a charge for parking in Canberra, I do not think it is justifiable for the government to have doubled the cost of parking over the last six years. I would struggle to think of any other city or any other jurisdiction where charges have doubled over the last six years, especially in a metropolitan area. Worryingly, we know that when light rail is operational, parking charges will increase further. After all, that is in the business case for light rail. But we all know that there is an inelastic demand for parking in the ACT. We know that whenever prices go up for parking, people simply pay. It is, in effect, the government gouging Canberrans. People often do not have a choice about whether they drive, whether they ride or whether they use public transport. Often people are simply compelled to drive because of the many places they need to go either to or from work. To that end, when the government increases the cost of parking, it is simply gouging Canberrans, because Canberrans often simply must pay it; there is no other option for many Canberra families.
Early analysis of the light rail project included increased parking charges as an overall benefit for the project. Of course, people who live anywhere outside the light rail corridor, as the vast majority of Canberrans do, will be paying for light rail twice.