Page 4300 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 25 October 2017

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(d) the purpose of this change is to bring more equity into the tax system, as previously unit holders have paid significantly lower rates than owners of freestanding homes with equivalent market values;

(e) under the previous methodology, this included examples such as someone with a $500 000 unit in the City paying $400 a year less in rates than the owner of a freestanding home worth the same amount in Charnwood;

(f) even after the change in rates calculation methodology for units, over 90 percent of unit holders pay rates as if they were in the lowest two marginal rating categories; and

(g) average rates on units across the ACT remain over $900 less per year than for freestanding homes;

(2) further notes:

(a) the ACT Government is committed to making the Territory’s budget fairer and ensuring that residents contribute equitably to funding the high quality services Canberrans expect and deserve;

(b) the Government is monitoring the impact of the changes as these roll out, particularly on the cost of living for Canberrans and property owners who are on low or fixed incomes; and

(c) responsible governance requires making hard decisions that are in the community’s long-term interest; and

(3) urges the Government to continue taking steps to ensure a fair and sustainable revenue base for the Territory into the future.”.

I have moved the amendment today to outline why the government is undertaking the changes to the rates calculation for the methodology of units. I do so in the context of this debate being had in this place on three or four occasions already, noting that it was announced in the 2016 budget, before the last territory election, that we would be updating the way rates were calculated for unit titled properties. The rationale for that was to achieve better equity between the contribution made by owners of units and those with freestanding homes. We then of course brought forward legislation to give effect to this change, which was considered by the Assembly this year. That this matter is even on the notice paper and has been allowed to come forward for debate might reflect that we are considering the same matter again inside a 12-month period.

As members of this place would no doubt be aware, general rates not only cover municipal services in the territory such as roads and rubbish collection but, because of our unique single level of government, also contribute to our state-level responsibilities, including education, health, public transport and a range of other state government services that the ACT government provides to Canberrans. In this context it is important then that everyone in the community contributes fairly. Changes to the rates calculation methodology for units have better aligned what property owners pay in rates on freestanding homes with equivalent market values.

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