State Taxation Acts Further Amendment Bill 2017
16 November 2017
Ms Ryan - I am pleased to be able to rise today to make a contribution to the debate on the State Taxation Acts Further Amendment Bill 2017 and to speak in support of the reasoned amendment that has been moved by the member for Malvern. As other speakers on this bill have mentioned, we all remember on the eve of the last election the now Premier being asked on TV:
Daniel Andrews, the polls say you will be Victoria's next Premier. If you are, do you promise Victorians here tonight that you will not increase taxes or introduce any new taxes?
And he said:
I make that promise, Peter, to every single Victorian.
We now know that that was a lie, that was a false promise, as since the Premier was elected Victorians have been hit with 12 new taxes, which the member for Burwood just outlined. This bill is yet the latest.
Central to the bill is the move to centralise the role of land valuations with the valuer-general and to take that function away from local government. That is a particular concern for members of Parliament representing country areas. In many cases those valuations are being undertaken by rural firms, which are going to see significant job losses as a consequence of the centralisation of this role with the valuer-general. Of course there are also councils that have locked in contracts with particular valuers.
They now face a challenge as a consequence of that and possibly a loss of revenue. But of course the bigger and more sinister motive behind the change is about moving to annual land revaluations instead of the current two-year cycle. That gives the government a very easy mechanism for jacking up land tax, plugging any holes in the budget that they might have and making property owners have to wear the consequences of that. As the member for Burwood, who just spoke, mentioned, we have also seen increases in the fire services property levy.
This issue around taking more and more money from property owners of course runs directly counter to the narrative from the government around rate capping, that they are in fact trying to ease the burden on property owners by capping rates. There have been a number of people who have pointed out the hypocrisy of that. I see the Municipal Group of Valuers have written to most members of Parliament, I imagine, to outline their opposition to this bill. They sent correspondence which states:
QUOTE NOT SUPPLIED IN TIME FOR VERIFICATION.
Sixteen good reasons why it's not a good idea for the state government to take over statutory evaluation processes from local government in Victoria.
They have pointed to the fact that there will be extra cost in producing a new valuation every year, with no material benefit to the community. They have also raised the concern that by undertaking an annual revaluation, you would end up with complete unpredictability in people's rates each year because there is the potential for them to fluctuate wildly. As they say, that is again in direct contrast to the reasons the government has been giving around rate capping and the fact that rate capping apparently smooths the bill shock for people and gives them a greater deal of certainty. Of course by moving into annual land revaluations, you take that away.
The City of Ballarat is another council that has expressed deep concerns about the government's plan and has written to members of the house asking them to vote against this bill. I would hope that the member for Wendouree and the member for Buninyong have taken note of the position of the City of Ballarat. They have warned that this will provide a revenue windfall for the government, but the impact on local government will be significant without any real positive outcome. I suppose that is at the very heart of this bill — that it is a grab for cash by the government, and it is in direct contrast to the commitment that the Premier gave Victorians on the eve of the last election.
I do want to touch on the changes in this bill to payroll tax to exempt apprentices and trainees who are placed within a group training organisation (GTO). I think it is somewhat devious of the government to put this payroll tax exemption in a bill that they know for entirely other reasons the opposition will find unpalatable. I have no doubt that when we vote against this bill, we will find that the government runs out and tells group training organisations that we have voted against payroll tax exemptions for them. I want to make it very clear that that is not what we are voting against, and I think the reasoned amendment moved by the member for Malvern makes that apparent.
I think group training organisations do a fantastic job in Victoria, particularly those through the Apprenticeship Employment Network. They do a wonderful job connecting people to real jobs. They are obviously jobs focused, and that is their primary outcome. But I would be very concerned to see anything from the government that would indicate that perhaps our position on this bill is an effort to vote against payroll tax exemptions, because it certainly is not. We are supportive of those aspects of the bill.
In fact I think that support for group training organisations is incredibly important at this time. Since Labor was elected we have seen a 20 per cent reduction in the number of apprentices and trainees in this state. Of course, as I have outlined to the house before, we have a training system that is struggling greatly with the 30 per cent reduction in the number of students enrolled in training in Victoria and huge reductions in TAFE staffing, with up to 960 ongoing positions lost in the TAFE sector in the last two years under the Premier. So there are significant challenges within the training sector that we acknowledge, and I think a payroll tax exemption for GTOs is a good initiative for them, but on balance with the rest of the nasties built into this bill, it is simply not a bill that we can vote for.
I did want to mention that back in February 2016 the Premier and the then Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert, actually went down to Geelong to meet with group training organisations to tell them that they were giving them a funding boost. At the time they pitched it as them stepping in to rescue group training organisations after the federal government cut their funding, and they told them that they were giving them extra funding. Interestingly enough that extra funding never appeared; the government made a commitment that it did not deliver on. All it simply did was continue a longstanding commitment that was actually put in place by Peter Hall towards the funding of GTOs in Victoria. The share of funding that the government said it was going to pick up from the commonwealth and that the Premier made a big song and dance about actually never eventuated.
Yet again we have another example of where the Premier has been happy to go out and tell the media one thing, but when it comes to the reality he has walked away from what was a very public commitment, just like he did when he came out onto the front steps of Parliament before the last election and told the media that he would not increase taxes when he gave that promise to every single Victorian. On that basis I wish to commend to the house the reasoned amendment moved by the member for Malvern. I hope those on the opposite side realise the importance of upholding the commitment they made before the last election and they support that reasoned amendment. But if that reasoned amendment fails, then I do not see how I can in all good conscience support this bill that will jack taxes up on Victorians yet again.