16 June 2020

Barr to blunt Liberals with own rates freeze

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: an actual rates reduction next year for over 110,000 Canberra households and 4,600 commercial property owners. Photo: File.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr will take the wind out of the Opposition’s sails on one of its major election policy planks by announcing the ACT Government’s own rates freeze today as part of the COVID-19 recovery plan.

In his online State of the Territory address to the Canberra Business Chamber today, Mr Barr will gazump the Canberra Liberals promise to freeze rates if they win power at the 17 October election.

Mr Barr will also go one better than the Liberals, arguing that most households will actually enjoy a reduction in their rates bill as a result of government policies.

”This commitment, combined with our $150 residential rates relief, provides an actual rates reduction next year for over 110,000 Canberra households and 4,600 commercial property owners, in a year where they will need it most,” he will say.

”Thousands more will see effectively no increase in their rates next financial year.”

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe has been campaigning heavily on cost-of-living issues, saying that 10 years of tax reform would more than triple rates revenue from $209 million in 2011-12 to $697 million in 2021-22.

The virtual election announcement, in effect, blunts the major point of attack from the Opposition, which has been relentless in its pursuit of the government’s tax reform agenda.

The Chief Minister will also tell the Chamber that the government will move to support the vital universities sector in the ACT. The government will put Canberra forward to be a pilot city for the return of both international flights and international students.

The government has been supporting Canberra Airport’s push to reopen the aviation industry and will also want to see the ANU’s and the University of Canberra’s overseas student cohort return, along with their contribution to the ACT’s economy.

”Canberra is a knowledge city, and rebuilding our higher education sector will be a crucial tool in our pathway out of the pandemic,” he will say.

Mr Barr will also flag a Community Recovery Plan to be announced later this week with Minister for Community Services and Facilities Suzanne Orr.

”Our plan won’t leave Canberrans behind, and it won’t let people slip through the cracks,” Mr Barr will say.

”This Plan will outline how the Government will work from our community services sector to ensure the right support is made available across the city to those who need it most.”

The rates announcement follows a freeze on other government fees and charges for the 2020-21 financial year.

A budget will not be handed down until after the election due to COVID-19 but that has not stopped the government rolling out a procession of measures to support the ACT economy.

This has meant a sharp fall in the ACT’s bottom line and more debt but ”right now, economic and support and growth is the priority, not chasing budget surpluses”, the government says.

Mr Barr will provide a detailed statement on the budget outlook for the Territory in late August, setting out its up-to-date fiscal position, and next steps in the long-term economic and fiscal recovery pathway for Canberra.

Mr Barr will tell the Chamber that the pandemic is not over and that government will continue to support the economy and business, pressing on with major infrastructure projects and partnerships such as those with UNSW Canberra, which plans to establish a new campus in Reid.

”There will be no greater priority for the ACT Government in the months and years ahead – if granted the opportunity by Canberrans in October – than the delivery of our recovery plan,” he will say.

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It’s be nice if they aimed to bring costs in Canberra into line with NSW. This is an expensive place to live, and the health services are about the worst in Australia.

I really feel ripped off living here, with my taxes just being wasted and given to the governments developer mates.

HiddenDragon7:12 pm 17 Jun 20

Given the numbers of Canberra property owners who scoffed at early predictions of what would happen to their rates in the transition from stamp duty to rates, and were then shocked and outraged when it eventually bit them, today’s promise to “freeze” (the flat fee and valuation-based marginal rating factors, but not valuations?) will doubtless win many votes.

Whether it’s a one year “freeze” (under which many will still face increases) or a four year “freeze” (also with fine print, presumably), the real issue is about the medium and longer-term fiscal viability of the ACT. Absent a major re-jig of federal financial relations which appreciably benefits the states and territories, very unpleasant options await ACT taxpayers.

A rates freeze. Elections in 4 months. Thats easy-peasy.

We currently are in the red by around 3 billion. So with rate freezes, and a lot of other expenditure announcements in the pipeline ( because of that nuisance October election ) lets round it off by making it 4 bill. Sorry forgot about the virus. Make it 4.5 bill.

“”In the mid year review tabled early this year, before the appearance of the coronavirus, the Chief Minister and Treasurer, Andrew Barr, revealed the ACT’s debt would hit $4 billion in 2021.””

phillipbusinesscommunity12:18 pm 17 Jun 20

From the Small Business Perspective

I feel that this sort of policy won’t help. It’s another claim that we’re getting a discount for something that is already really high.

A policy that helps the HAVES, but does little for the HAVE NOTs around town. It is extremely unlikely, considering the business conditions and the already high levels that particularly rates are, that any landlord would pass this on unless they were legally required to.

It’s unlikely on Commercial leases, as they are long-term and most don’t pay the rates. It’s unlikely on Rental properties as again the tenants don’t pay rates.

Sadly if the current Government are just going to adopt opposition policy to garnish support – they should consider investing in infrastructure further south of the lake to ensure that the people of “The Forgotten South” feel that this government are listening.

I am concerned people will take the short-term view of this and in 12 months time the government will return to their addiction to rates and we will not have solved the problem. It may be a “we took a hit so now we need to lift them further” statement is on the cards.

Last comment, I do wish both parties would stick to insulting the policies rather than the individuals in all this – both sides aren’t looking very good at this point.

Tom Adam
President – Phillip Business Community.

Freeze rates for a year, and I’ll guarantee when that freeze comes off, the price hike will more than make up for it.

People continuing to vote for these clowns is why they do what they do. They feel safe that they can screw over rate payers without repercussion.

Capital Retro10:00 am 17 Jun 20

Auto ticket vending machines?
I thought tram travel was free.

Capital Retro9:18 am 17 Jun 20

Has anyone picked up on the word “most” coupled with homes that will receive a rate freeze?
Probably won’t apply to ratepayers who are holders of the CSHC in the ACT who have been also frozen out of receiving an annual rebate of up to $400 a year as a seniors energy rebate. It’s available in NSW (and most other states) as part of their Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) scheme.

I’m surprised the Liberals haven’t got on to this but they know they wont get elected anyway.

It’s funny that the biggest area of attack of the government is in reality the government’s best policy reform.

The move away from stamp duty to a more efficient taxation source based on land taxes is one of the smartest things done by any government in the country and should in fact be rolled out Australia wide.

Far, far too risky and early to allow the rerun of international students. It would be a weak an irresponsible government that puts our community’s health at risk by caving into pressure from tertiary institutions, whose faulty business model has made them dependent on, if not addicted to, ever growing numbers of foreign students.

Capital Retro5:13 pm 17 Jun 20

All those new apartments built with borrowed money and no international students to buy/rent them?

Canberra will go into reverse gear then over a cliff.

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