Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 November 2018) . . Page.. 4982 ..
Ms Le Couteur’s motion also seeks an investigation into whether fines or penalties should be based on a person’s income. The ability for this to be put into practice is somewhat difficult, as records regarding personal income are held with the tax office rather than the ACT government. This would present significant obstacles not only in determining a person’s income at a territory level but also in raising some privacy concerns in the community. Such a policy may also present an undue advantage to those who are income poor but asset rich. There would be many unintended consequences that would have to be worked through before any such scheme is rolled out.
The Canberra Liberals are very concerned about the rising cost of living in our city. Whilst there are concessions available for rates and utilities, we must not talk down the impact of hikes to rates, fees, taxes and other charges for people on low and middle incomes. The government must make the deferral scheme known to all those who are eligible, rather than keep it a secret.
In conclusion, Ms Le Couteur’s motion addresses many symptoms but not actually the cause: the high rates bills that Canberrans pay. These symptoms are serious and must be dealt with, but we must not forget the hardship caused by successive decisions of this Labor-Greens government to increase rates beyond what people are capable of paying.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (3.49), in reply: Thank you, gentlemen, for basically your support for low income people in Canberra. That is what my motion is about: making sure that people who are currently suffering from a degree of financial stress do not get pushed totally over into hardship and bankruptcy and, in particular, lose their licence, something that the ACT government is involved in.
I repeat the figure from my initial speech: 81 per cent of licence removals are due to unpaid fines. Quite a few of those fines—the majority of them, I suspect—will be minor fines: you were a couple of kilometres over the speed limit or you parked in the wrong place. They are the sorts of things which, quite frankly, happen. Yes, we all know we should not do it, but it happens. And if you get a fine which you cannot pay and then you cannot drive anymore in this car-dependent city, life can get rapidly very much worse for you. You may not be able to go to work. You may not be able to get your kids to school. You may not be able to shop anywhere reasonably.
There is an issue apart from the issue that Mr Coe talked about, which was basically about the general level of government revenue. It is fairly clear, particularly from the last election, that the people of Canberra want our government to do a lot of good things for us, and that as a whole we are reasonably comfortable. Sure, we would prefer to pay less, but as a whole we are reasonably comfortable with the idea that if we want our government to provide the high quality services we want, we are going to have to pay for them. I do not think that is really a contentious idea, and that is what I am trying to say in this motion: there are some people that cannot pay and some people we need to make more allowance for.
Mr Barr spoke about the various schemes which enable people to not pay fines immediately. I am well aware of these, because some of them were introduced by my