Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 11 May 2017) . . Page.. 1682 ..
more people living in higher density areas. Those are the reasons why the opposition will not be supporting the amendments relating to the increases in rates and land tax as stipulated in the bill.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (12.09): I understand this bill has three elements. I will address two of them, the third being uncontroversial, that is, the little bit about insurance duty is uncontroversial.
First off, this bill includes tax increases. I appreciate that tax increases are never the most popular thing to ask for but I also appreciate that, if we are to run a good government, government income is important. Just because tax goes up it is not a sufficient to reason to say no. The government has many good things it needs to spend money on. Tax increases are never popular because they fall upon somebody, but the reality is that there are many things that the community needs the government to provide, such as our health system, schools, roads, justice and community services. The list goes on. But it does mean that the Assembly has to make unpleasant choices at times.
I turn first to rates and land tax for units. This change will increase the revenue collected. There is, however, a fairness issue. Ideally, people owning a unit worth X should pay the same rates as people owning a house worth X. This, of course, has not been the case in the ACT in the past because our rates are based on the unimproved land value. Particularly if you are in an apartment, your unimproved land value will be very small because you only have a very small interest in land.
Our rates system is not set up to deal with the actual value of your house; it is set up to deal with the unimproved capital value. This change for units makes things slightly fairer, slightly closer to equity and parity. I understand that in Victoria, in most if not all councils, rates are based on the improved capital value. That is something, as I have said before in this place during my previous time here, we should be considering looking at, from the point of view of equity. If your asset is worth the same, it would seem logical that your taxation on it should be the same.
Secondly, I turn to the more difficult issue—rates rebates. It is a difficult issue. It has been a difficult issue for many years, going back to the mid-1990s, since the introduction of the differential system where new concession holders got a fixed dollar amount rebate while existing concession holders stayed on the previously uncapped 50 per cent rebate. On one hand it does not feel fair for pensioners living on low fixed incomes like the age pension to be facing rising rates. On the other hand it also does not feel fair that some pensioners have a higher rebate than others who may well be their neighbours and who are in effectively the same financial situation. I understand this is a difficult area of public policy and one which I am sure more consideration will be given to in the future.
Both elements of the bill involve difficult choices. The Greens will be supporting both of them. I understand that there is a government amendment which fixes a purely technical error, and I signal that I will be supporting that as well.