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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 May 2015) . . Page.. 1638 ..

the ACT landscape, providing jobs and essential services. It is the obligation of the government to ensure that extra fees and charges are not overwhelming for small and micro business owners. Recently a constituent approached me about the impact of the increase of rates on his business in Fyshwick. Between 2009 and 2013 his rates were $6,000 to $7,000 a quarter. In 2015 they are now $9,227 a quarter. Minister Barr, in two years that business has received a 35 per cent rate increase. Does this concern you at all? Or are you so fixated on this vision of yours—

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Dr Bourke): Mr Doszpot, address your comments to the chair, please.

MR DOSZPOT: Through you, Mr Assistant Speaker, I wonder if Mr Barr is so fixated on his ideological vision and that of his colleague the crossbench member that he cannot see the damage being done to the community. How can businesses survive if they have 35 per cent rate increases? It just is not possible. For a small business employing 15 people, this is a massive increase in government charges. These charges cannot be passed on to consumers but have to be absorbed by the business.

In closing, it is clear to everyone in our community that reducing government fees and charges should be at the forefront of this government’s agenda. It is an issue that is affecting real people in the Canberra community, and the current government should be focused on reducing this burden, not on an unaffordable light rail project which places even further strains on an already stretched budget in the ACT. This matter of public importance is timely, and I urge the government to listen to the community about the importance of low ACT government fees and charges.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (3.55): I welcome the opportunity to have this discussion today. Mr Doszpot has raised some interesting questions. I certainly agree with him that it is important to ensure that government fees and charges are affordable and that they do not preclude people who may be disadvantaged or vulnerable due to being on low incomes from using the services that attract fees and from being able to meet their other cost of living expenses. However, I am not sure I agree with the basic premise of Mr Doszpot’s topic—that is, it is straight-out important to have low fees and charges. We need to have a discussion about the level of services we want to provide in the community and then how government delivers them. That is the question in my mind.

The ACT has very good services in many regards if you think about our roads, our education system and those sorts of things. That is the discussion we need to have. It is not about straight-out low fees and charges; it is about the level of fees and charges we need to sustain the level of services we want to provide in this city.

If I think about the federal context, where these sorts of issues are being thrashed out as well, we have seen the federal coalition government talk about a budget crisis. That language has softened a little as they have also come to the reality of trying to be a government and deal with the many pressures on government budgets, but I draw on the comment my federal colleagues have made, which is that you also need to look at the revenue side of the equation and how much revenue you are willing to raise in order to fund a level of services for the community.

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