Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 October 2015) . . Page.. 3766 ..
reference of $250,000 now being worth perhaps just $60,000 means that there are 217 owners of plates, hundreds of families, who have had their family wealth slashed. For many this is their life savings being slashed by this government’s decision. For many this is their retirement nest egg. For many it was the estate they were hoping to leave to their children. Is this fair? Is this what the Labor Party in Canberra stands for? I am amazed that in a party full of people that claim to be about justice, that claim to be about social justice, not one of them has the guts to raise this as an issue. Not one of them has the guts to say, “This is not right”.
Let me describe a comparable example. Imagine if the government sold a block of land for $250,000. Imagine a family puts all their savings into the purchase but then the next day the government declares that land is now free; that land is being given away. What would happen to the value of that block of land? Imagine trying to sell that block of land while all the other blocks are being given away. The truth is, if you could sell it at all it would be worth a fraction of the price that was paid. It would be worth a fraction of that $250,000 for the block. In effect, the savings of that family would be eradicated.
This is the situation that 217 perpetual plate owners face right now. I know this is a complex area of government policy but that is no excuse for not recognising the damage that this policy is going to have on many Canberrans. I know that there is not necessarily a simple solution as there are some plates that were awarded to people at no cost but there were others—many, many others—that paid a great deal for them. There may not be a one-size-fits-all scheme but developing a scheme which recognises the lost value in perpetual plates should not be beyond this government. There are plenty of competent people in the Treasury, in the Chief Minister’s department who could develop options.
I am the first to admit that any industry that is heavily dependent upon government regulation is at risk of changes in those regulations. However there is also an expectation—an expectation that is rapidly deteriorating—that this government will be fair. I do not think there is anyone that says there are not significant reforms that can and should be made in the taxi industry. However, like any other change in government policy it has to be done properly.
Mr Barr accuses the opposition of being a sovereign risk for the light rail contract, despite the fact that we would be exercising a termination clause in the possible contract and we are telegraphing it years in advance. Any consortia that go into the light rail contract go in with their eyes wide open about what the Liberal Party’s intentions are should we be endorsed in October next year. I do not think it is sovereign risk. However, real sovereign risk occurs when governments change their policy and devalue decisions based on former policy.
The government’s decision to throw out the regulatory system on which people trusted and made investments is sovereign risk. What the government is doing is saying that our rules and regulations in the ACT are worthless. The government is saying that you cannot and should not make investments in Canberra based on our regulatory regime. For a government that claims to be in favour of growing our economy, this escalation of risk is damaging to confidence in Canberra and damaging in confidence for people who seek to invest in Canberra.