Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 October 2017) . . Page.. 4305 ..
transition and we need to be very careful that going forward we transit in a way where we look carefully at the equity impacts of rates, concessions and rebates changes.
If rates are rising more quickly than social security payments and lower quintile incomes, we probably need to make regular adjustments to rebate and deferment amounts and eligibility criteria to ensure that they remain equitable. Whilst the age-based deferment scheme can provide assistance to some in this predicament, it is only available to people who own property in the 80th percentile of the average unimproved value, which means that the unimproved capital value of their property must be more than $416,000. My understanding is that this was originally introduced to help older people who did not qualify for the standard pensioner deferment and who had lived for many years in a suburb which had become expensive. As such, their rates had gone up much faster than those of people in other suburbs.
I cannot see how this makes sense. If you live in an average or below-average value house you may well have more need to defer your rates than someone in a more expensive house, quite possibly because your income could be way less than that of a person in a more expensive house. In particular, you are much less likely to be able to sell your house to downsize and still be able to stay in Canberra, because if you are already living in a cheaper house then there are not likely to be many cheaper options that you can downsize to.
For these reasons I propose that the current age rates deferral scheme be widened to include all older home owners who meet appropriate income criteria. These income criteria might need to be adjusted. As I have said in this chamber before, and I am sure I will be saying in this chamber again, the Greens support the taxation system being economically efficient as well as fair and equitable. Economics and social justice are both important and it is essential that we do both at once.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (11.47): We have heard an interesting argument from those opposite, which is not too far off a poll tax, the way they are talking. Interestingly, Ms Le Couteur is now in effect arguing against a compact city, arguing against density and arguing for suburbia. I, as is well known, do not have an issue with suburbia, but for years the Greens and the government’s argument has been that single-dwelling blocks are not sustainable and we need to have densification because apartment blocks have a lighter footprint on the environment than do private residences in RZ1-type areas.
Now what we are hearing from Ms Le Couteur is that in actual fact the environmental footprint, the urban services footprint and indeed the land footprint is the same if you live in an apartment as if you live in a single-dwelling home. That is the argument that is being put forward by Mr Barr and Ms Le Couteur.
We on this side have got no problem with suburbia, but we also acknowledge that people in an apartment do take up less land than people in a single-dwelling home. People in an apartment do require fewer services. They do require, in effect, less footpath per block or per capita. They do require less by way of road construction and various other forms of infrastructure. That has always been the rationale for why densification would limit sprawling cities. Yet today what Ms Le Couteur is arguing