Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 4 August 2015) . . Page.. 2171 ..
That the report be noted.
Yet again another estimates period and yet again another report, and I start by thanking all those involved with its production. I thank my fellow members on the committee: Ms Meegan Fitzharris as deputy chair, Dr Chris Bourke as a member and Ms Nicole Lawder as a member. I particularly thank all the secretariat staff for their assistance in the preparation of this report.
The appropriation bill is the bill that defines a lot of the activity for the coming year. This report has 148 recommendations and it is about 300-odd pages. It is a cracking good read, if you do not get enough paperwork. I thank the officials that appeared. This year we have virtually all of the questions answered that were taken on notice or placed on notice, which is a great outcome.
As you can read from the report, there was a lot of discussion about a broad range of topics and some quite revealing answers when those questions were put. First and foremost is the revelation that stamp duty is not necessarily going. We had the Chief Minister answering questions where we went from a position of, “We’ve abolished the tax,” to the position of, “We want to be the lowest taxing jurisdiction.” It is important that we get some clarity on that, and there are a number of recommendations—recommendations 38, 39 and following—about tax reform.
Members will note that there is not a dissenting report, which is a wonderful thing. We used the technique we used last year where if somebody recommended something significant and it was not agreed to it appears as a footnote. Members will see that there is a recommendation on page 94 that has gone to the footnotes where Mr Smyth and Ms Lawder recommended that the government detail exactly when stamp duty will be finally abolished in the ACT and that the government do so during the debate of the appropriation bill. That was not agreed to by all members of the committee so it has gone in as a footnote.
It is important that people get some certainty. When people were told that certain taxes were being abolished, they thought that meant they were going. But we see in this year’s conveyances the outcome for 2014-15 is $220 million and by the 2018-19 budget it will be $260 million. It is a very strange tax that has been abolished that continues to grow and grow. I think people deserve some certainty, so there is a recommendation that the government report on the first five years of the tax reform and outline its plan for the next five years, in particular, its commitment to the principle of revenue neutrality and its long-term goal of abolishing stamp duty over two decades. People deserve certainty, and they are not getting that from this process. What they are getting is larger rates bills without what many believe is the commensurate pay-off—the abolition of some of these taxes.
A business wrote to me last year saying their rates bill was about $70,000 and this year it is $98,000. That is an enormous increase at a time when land values have not gone up that much in the ACT to warrant that level of activity. A lot of people are feeling the pinch. We know from some of the groups that appeared, National Seniors for instance, that people are finding things difficult. That needs to be addressed.