Page 2090 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2016

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This bill amends the uncapped scheme to change the rebate to become the lesser of the amount the person received as a rebate in the previous year or 50 per cent of their rates liability. This means that the rebate is capped at the level of the 2015-16 rebate. Over time the value of the rebate as a proportion of their rates will decrease and pensioners who are on a fixed income may face increasing rates at a level that they may struggle to pay. Therefore we call upon the government to make sure that they are keeping a watching brief on this situation and to ensure that people are not even more put out as a result of increasing rates in the territory.

The bill does not change the capped rebate scheme, and households under that scheme will continue to receive a 50 per cent rebate up to the capped rate of $700. The bill changes the fire and emergency services levy rebate from an automatic 50 per cent rebate to being determined by disallowable instrument in the future.

Although the opposition supports equity in determining rates for all households, we are concerned that the government sees home owners, and in this case pensioners, as a revenue source to be constantly drained when the government is having difficulty with its revenue and expenditure management. Therefore, the opposition does express some concern about this bill. We do express some concern about the intentions of the government in this space, and we hope that the government will be very careful in monitoring the situation to ensure that people are not put out even more as a result of the rates burden they are placing on Canberra families.

The opposition will be supporting the bill, with those considerations.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (12.15): Madam Speaker, the bill before us is a very small bill, but one which will have some impact for some pensioners.

The bill does two things. It freezes the fire and emergency services levy rebate at $98 for the 2016-17 financial year. I believe that freezing the fire and emergency services levy rebate is fairly uncontroversial. The $98 rebate covers half of the levy cost last financial year.

The other is freezing the level of the rebate cap available on rates for pensioners who have been on an uncapped rebate scheme since 1997. Most pensioners are on a capped rebate of 50 per cent of their rates; this rebate was capped at $700 per annum this year, although this amount is determined annually. However, the pensioners who have been eligible since 1997 have been on an uncapped scheme, receiving a 50 per cent rebate on their rates without any limit applied. This bill seeks to equalise those two pensioner rates rebate schemes by introducing a freeze for those previously uncapped pensioner rebates. The freeze will mean that if their rebates have been over $700, as rates rise their rebate will stay frozen at the current level of rebate they have been receiving. Madam Speaker, noting that this reform is an integral part of the budget and a reform that we support, the Greens will be supporting this bill before us today.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Tourism and Events and Minister for Urban Renewal) (12.16), in reply: I again thank members for their unanimous support of this legislation.

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