11 August 2021

Big-spending Budget to focus on jobs and skills, says Barr

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at the Hyatt: “Governments should embrace reasonable risk in pursuit of recovery.” Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has promised another big-spending Budget to support the Territory’s economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic and create more jobs.

Mr Barr also told business leaders in his State of the Territory address today that the government would be doing all it could to attract skilled workers to the capital while overseas migration is on ice.

He said the 2021-22 ACT Budget, to be delivered on 31 August, would include record investments in the ACT’s public health and education systems, as well as public housing.

“The Reserve Bank of Australia has rightly urged the Commonwealth, state, and territory governments to boost public spending and accelerate job creation as we recover,” he said.

“Governments should embrace reasonable risk in pursuit of recovery.

“We should drive towards full employment by creating and shaping markets, strategic investments, delivering productivity-improving infrastructure, and essential public services.”

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The government was still aiming to create 250,000 jobs by 2025 and pointed to sectors that need lots of workers or where Canberra has a competitive advantage, including space, cyber and renewable energy, healthcare, the arts and creative industries, and community services.

Mr Barr said the ACT economy was already strong, with economic activity in the year to date around 20 per cent above the decade average.

“On current trajectories, as measured in State Final Demand, the ACT economy is set to grow larger than the Tasmanian and Northern Territory economies combined over the next decade,” he said.

“We are the only Australian state or territory – and the only sub-national government in the Asia-Pacific region – that has retained our AAA credit rating.”

But finding enough skilled workers remained a challenge across multiple industries, and Mr Barr said these shortages would only get worse once the national economy bounces back.

He said there was an opportunity for the ACT in the number of people looking to leave the bigger cities searching for a higher quality of life, such as Canberra can offer.

But the ACT needed to do more to attract them in a fiercely competitive market, Mr Barr said.

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He said the ACT Government would partner with the business community and universities to attract and retain Canberra’s workforce for the coming decade.

“We will work with industry sectors that are facing significant skill shortages – like hospitality, health, construction, and cybersecurity – to identify the barriers to attracting the workforce they need and develop sector-specific plans to address skill shortages,” he said.

“And we’re engaging with industry through the better regulation task force to make it even easier to do business here.”

Mr Barr said he had been devastated at the Commonwealth’s lack of support for universities during the pandemic.

The university sector was the ACT’s top export industry, and one in nine Canberrans either studied or worked at a university.

“Our universities are critical to our continued success – from providing the skills our city needs to conducting world-leading research, they cement our status as Australia’s knowledge capital,” Mr Barr said.

He pledged to keep working with the universities to get international and interstate students back on campus.

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Thats right what’s worse though is housing ACT handing keys to a 3 bedroom unit to a single male – a retired public servant being given preferential treatment – efficient use of resources is not a priority to this government .

Just checking the numbers. So a Tuggeranong property that recently sold for the current Canberra median price, paid Stamp Duty at 3.4% of its total sale price. The same property sold for the Canberra median house price back in 2012 just before the Stamp Duty/Rates tax reform paying 3.6% of its total sale price in Stamp Duty. In the meantime their annual rates on the block have more than doubled.

So a massive 200% rise in annual rates during the tax reform transition and only a tiny percentage reduction in Stamp Duty. (And thousands more in Stamp Duty in raw dollars). ACT Government has reaped $78,000 in rates and Stamp Duty from just this one property in a decade.

No wonder the increase in the ACT Governments revenue from property taxes and charges are running at triple Canberra’s population and inflation growth.

That’s a flawed assumption because you’re thinking that the taxation on a “median” dwelling should always be the same % which simply isn’t true.

Particularly in a booming market which has massively outstripped CPI, wage growth or any other growth metric you want to use.

Its obvious that this would lead to windfall revenue for the government (also makes the owners wealthy as well). The apparent “problem” you are identifying is one of the exact reasons why the change to a land tax model is superior, preventing large swings in government revenue. The fix to this issue is to make the transition faster, yet those whinging around rate increases would be the first to complain if that happened. Amd they would also never accept increases taxes if property prices were reducing which is what you seem to be suggesting should happen by tracking stamp duty taxes against value.

Also, what AUV are you using for your calculation because as you know, rates aren’t directly calculated on improved value. The figure for median property below of $910k is also now out of date, we’ve topped $1million now.

But this isn’t just happening at the median it’s happening on the cheapest houses available in Canberra $6-750k.

These massive property based revenue hikes is because the design of the transition is flawed , I’ve said this since day 1.

But you think it’s perfect and that it will solve a myriad of tax and housing issues in Canberra. Even some of the original designers of the change think the ACT Government has stuffed up the implementation of the tax reform.

Even if we further tripled rates tomorrow and removed Stamp Duty it still wouldn’t fix our housing and equity issues.

And of course I based the doubling of the rates on the UAV not the house price.

I asked what AUV you used because calling a property the “median” based on its overall value and then tying it to rates doesn’t reflect a number of variables that might have affected the price.

“These massive property based revenue hikes is because the design of the transition is flawed , I’ve said this since day 1.”

The only flaw is in the length of the transition, it should have been completed in less than 10 years but the government didn’t want to aggravate the whingers any more than they already were and made it 20. This is a mistake that they should rectify by completing the reform sooner.

Get old single people out of large public housing stock. Houses are for family not singles.

Wow – fascism raises its ugly head

Efficient use of taxpayer resources is fascism?


Yeh its not really fascism lol. More a case of a need to make sure the most efficient use of public housing stock can be achieved.

Too many people are allowed to stay in their ‘preferred’ public house for too long, even when circumstances have changed and the property that they are in doesn’t align well to their needs anymore. I’m not saying to kick people out on the streets or anything drastic (although I do think something likely needs to be done about very long term tenants that take advantage of overly generous arrangements to stay in public housing when they have the financial capability to enter the private market), but maximising the value of public housing will mean that sometimes people will have to be shifted.

But that likely needs a cultural change at Housing ACT, which will only happen with a complete clear out.

And another thing. Friends recently bought a median priced 3 bedroom property in somewhat outer Tuggeranong. Stamp Duty is a whopping $37,000 on the sale and the current annual rates will be $3,900. Those annual rates will be further shooting up in line with the land value.

ACT Government is having it both ways at the moment. Doubling your property tax.

High rates and high Stamp Duty on median priced housing. But low services and low quality facilities for the average Canberran.

HiddenDragon9:34 pm 09 Aug 21

“Creating and shaping markets……”

Major national governments can sometimes turn this public policy mirage into a positive reality, but when little governments attempt it, the result is far more likely to be a futile game of trying to pick winners in fashionable sectors – a waste of taxpayers’ funds and a distraction, particularly for a government which struggles to do its day job.

Barr’s Big Budget is funded by extortionate rate rises.
Our home rates went up another 9% since last year.
From 2011-12 to 2021-22 our rates have risen 297%.

And howicj did the value of your property go up in that time?

The government’s tax reform to move to a broad based land tax model is one of the truly good and brave things they’ve done.

There are many things to criticise them for, that is not one of them.

Is that you again Shane? Although it has been explained to you many times in very simple language you still fail to comprehend that rising land values do not pay for rising rates. Income rises are far below rate rises. Has your income gone up by 9% since last year? Has your income tripled in 10 years? If not then your budget is worse off and so you and your family are worse off. Rising land and property prices mean you are no better off when selling because all other land and houses prices have also proportionately risen. It is most irritating having to repeatedly explain this to you.

Overall Stamp Duty revenue on property sales isn’t dropping like Mr Barr promised either.

As I’ve raised previously, the Property value thresholds for annual rates calculations and Stamp Duty fees on property sales are artificially high. Combined Property related tax revenue for Government has increased at triple the rate of CPI and Population growth combined.

The ‘theory’ for the Stamp Duty switch to rates might be right (as Chewy always tells us) but Chewy will never admit that the ACT Government has stuffed up the implementation of the change (to the ACT government’s tax revenue benefit).

And it’s been explained to you many times that we have a progressive taxation system that should ensure those who are objectively well off should pay more. Complaining that you’re asset rich but cash poor is irrelevant, because there are numerous options available to you to free up capital.

“Rising land and property prices mean you are no better off when selling because all other land and houses prices have also proportionately risen.”

Honestly, this is one of the silliest things I’ve read on this website. Who says that if you sell your property, you need to purchase one of the same value? Who says you have to purchase at all? In fact, who says you have to sell at all to free up capital, when you could just as easily take out a reverse mortgage if you wanted to.

Rich people complaining about not wanting to pay their way. Spare me.

“Overall Stamp Duty revenue on property sales isn’t dropping like Mr Barr promised either.”

Due to a booming property market, which is exactly one of the things that the change is designed to fix. Anyone that complains about this should clearly want the change to be completed quicker to reduce the variability of government revenue amd the potential for double dipping.

It’s also used almost exclusively as a disingenuous argument because these same people would never say that property taxes should be increased if property prices were falling and government revenue dropping.

“The ‘theory’ for the Stamp Duty switch to rates might be right (as Chewy always tells us) but Chewy will never admit that the ACT Government has stuffed up the implementation of the change (to the ACT government’s tax revenue benefit).”

The only stuff up in the implementation is that they haven’t moved faster. But the people whinging the most would never accept that as a better solution, despite being obviously superior.

Capital Retro6:15 pm 10 Aug 21

Remember the Liberals several elections chanting “Labor will triple your rates”?

Labor and the media howled them down.

If that’s the case, Why wasn’t Stamp Duty dropping equally to rates rises when house prices were not booming?

You can’t keep blaming the rising property values for the massive hikes in tax and rates revenue.

At some point someone has to say we aren’t adjusting the thresholds properly and fairly taxing property owners/purchases.

OMG! CapitalRetro is that right? I’m sure that’s grounds you can take to the High Court to have those elections overturned. Perhaps they’ve adopted John Howard’s ‘core / non-core policy’ approach to the truth.

Capital Retro,
They were howled down because of course over time rates would triple. It’s the period of time over which that was going to occur that mattered, with the Liberal candidates refusing to be honest with the electorate.

“If that’s the case, Why wasn’t Stamp Duty dropping equally to rates rises when house prices were not booming?”

But it was. The review of the reform showed that it would be revenue neutral over the economic cycle. The only thing causing the current windfall gains is property price rises.

“At some point someone has to say we aren’t adjusting the thresholds properly and fairly taxing property owners/purchases”

No, at some point the government should just stop listening to the whingers and get the reform completed, which removes the problem entirely.

As above, if they lower the rates to reflect abnormally high revenue growth due to a property boom, they are simply setting a timebomb for when conditions return to normality. You can’t honestly think that people would support more tax increases if property prices started falling.

A progressive tax is a tax in which the tax rate increases as income increases. So people on high incomes pay more tax. Rightly so. Sound fair?
A regressive tax imposes a harsher burden on lower-income households because it is based on the value of the good taxed, not on the capacity to pay. Sound fair? No.
Rate rises are based on rising property values, not on income levels or capacity to pay, so rates are a regressive tax. Your mistake is to believe that only people on high incomes with capacity to pay are hit with high rates. However, people cannot control rising property values and rising rates when land all around them is going up because of speculators, investors and ACT government policy to limit land supply (to push up land values and rates revenue). People on fixed, low and modest family incomes cannot afford 9% annual rate hikes when their income is not also rising by the same percentage. It is totally unsustainable, unfair and inequitable.
It is not ok to deprive people of their aspirations for home ownership.
It is not ok to push low income families and pensioners out of their house and neighborhood because they can no longer afford to live there anymore.
It is not ok to force people to borrow money to remain in their own home.
The arrogance of justifying extortionate regressive tax rises is more worthy of a feudal baron than someone living in a progressive society.
Wealthy people living in their own bubble of complacency, comfort and disinterest. Spare me.

Capital Retro7:40 am 11 Aug 21

I was simply stating a fact but you can’t help yourselves making distorting comments, can you?

Honestly, trying to tell us that up is down doesn’t help your argument.

“Rate rises are based on rising property values, not on income levels or capacity to pay, so rates are a regressive tax. “

Um, rates are based on your capacity to pay because they are based on your objective wealth. So by your own argument, they are progressive.

Claiming that objectively rich people don’t have the “capacity to pay” because their wealth is tied up in property is nonsensical. By your arguments, we shouldn’t tax capital at all because it doesn’t reflect incomes. It’s a ridiculous position to hold.

“However, people cannot control rising property values and rising rates when land all around them is going up because of speculators, investors and ACT government policy to limit land supply (to push up land values and rates revenue).”

So by your own admission these people have become rich through no actions of their own. So you think they should be exempt from tax and able to take their windfall gains whilst other people pay ever higher taxation to subsidise objectively rich people.

It is perfectly reasonable to expect wealthy people to pay more tax.

Home ownership is not a god given right. Property should not be exempt from tax just so people can hoard wealth outside of the taxation system.

The arrogance of expecting younger, poorer people to subsidise wealthy land owners is more worthy of a feudal baron system than someone living in a progressive society.

Wealthy landowners living in their own bubble of complacency, unwilling to recognise their privileged position and pay their own way, spare me.

I should also point out that if you’re so worried about older people being forced out of their homes, I’m perfectly happy for the government to offer a reverse mortgage scheme that would be recoverable on sale/death so that they can stay in place.

Seeing as you say they aren’t responsible for the property price increases and their wealth isn’t real, you’d be on board with such an option right?

I await your agreement.

And I was simply providing the context for your “fact”, nothing distorting about it in the slightest.

Chewy, I get the technical benefits of reducing Stamp Duty and increasing rates, but surely even you have to agree with me and admit the ACT Government hasn’t got the Thresholds right and is double dipping. (The revenue neutral claim is a furphy, you can’t continue to base the comparison calculations using the Stamp Duty formula from the start of the tax program – of course the conveyance thresholds were going to continue to rise over time).

But the easiest way to highlight the issue around the transition is a simple example. A 2012 median Canberra house price of $510,000 before the tax reform paid $18,600 in Stamp Duty on the property sale. Today’s median Canberra house price of $910,000 pays $30,600 in Stamp Duty. What happened to reducing Stamp Duty?

If you can’t see that the ACT Government has been double dipping on both Rates and Stamp Duty then your promised benefits to the ACT economy of the tax reform won’t be realised.

If you honestly believe in the tax reform, You (like myself) should be highlighting that the ACT Government isn’t adequately weaning itself off Stamp Duty.

Property related taxes/charges have tripled the growth in population and inflation combined.

Employment and job opportunities for all Canberrans needs an increased focus from the Chief Minister. I’d like all Riotact regulars to hear me out on this one, no matter their persuasions.

If I could ask one thing of the leaders of the three major political parties in Canberra it would be…..

Create some serious tax and business incentives for companies and organisations to setup and operate out of both Tuggeranong and Gunghalin.

Release some land for technology, renewables or trading hubs, where businesses can operate from in these two well populated areas that have less local employment and are often forgotten at a jobs level.

I reckon the Feds might even get on board with some additional incentives if you have the three ACT parties plus our local Federal reps pulling in the same direction.

But incentives have to be focused on the two least employing areas of the city. Not just more jam for the Airport or an already jobs rich Civic.

This will also provide other social and environmental benefits if workers from the outer burbs aren’t spending time commuting into Civic.

You get my vote, bj_ACT – any thoughts on what current initiatives can be dropped to fund this? I think we know the tram is out of the question as is raising income (read rates and taxes) which would be anathema to most of your audience. Nevertheless, nice one

Thanks Grumpy. Appreciate the response.

Firstly, We certainly don’t need to increase taxes or charges.

Instead I would use a proportion of the Stamp Duty (Conveyance revenue) that the ACT Government has made from property sales solely in Tuggeranong and Gunghalin. Due to massive house price growth over the last 18 months, these funds will be far higher than originally estimated in the budget and they should go back into the areas who paid it.

I would also undertake a full cost benefits of my proposal (ACT Government is very good at getting a consultant who will find positive benefits for each dollar spent).

Sounds very plausible, bj – obviously you don’t work for one of our elected officials. Hoping you are going to email this to every member of the Assembly.

Not a bad shout at all Bj. But zero chance with the budget hole the territory is in, and the inability of the current government to ever reign in wasteful spending. Any ‘windfall’ from higher stamp duty/rates etc just disappears into the giant black hole, never to be seen again.

While its not popular, a proper ‘slash and burn’ expenditure review process is needed across ACT Government. There is a lot of wasteful, useless expenditure out there, that could be better directed to interesting ideas such as what you suggest.

Absolutely, JS9, but as you know every government has their agenda, which once elected doesn’t necessarily conform to the fiscal expectations or policy expectations of the majority – unfortunately “wasteful, useless expenditure” is in the eye of the beholder. The problem with our mob, is that the ‘slash and burn’ expenditure review will probably result in (arguably) the wrong initiatives being cut. Nevertheless I hope Canberrans, like bj_ACT and you, don’t stop thinking of practical ways for improvement. You never know, maybe those pigs will be converted into EVs, and our mob might even take onboard such suggestions?!?

Fair points Mark – certainly waste is in the eye of the beholder. The issue with this government however is they don’t even seem to want to start looking. Any government really should have a rolling program evaluating their expenditure, seeing what is working and what isn’t, and making changes as they go.

This government has a tiny team in Treasury doing that, which seems to do substantial work and then nothing happens from it – it just seems to be a never ending ‘spend more’ mantra, which will only end in disaster.

Saying all that – I absolutely recognise the need for government expenditure to support the economy, especially in the current circumstances. But making every $ go further and be better targeted should be central to the thinking of every government – and this one it really doesn’t seem to be.

Also not helped by the fact some of the areas where genuine improvements could be made (efficiency in the cost base for transport for instance) are pretty much totally off the table. I’m not saying for one second slash and burn public transport, but our system is horrendously expensive to operate for a city of our size. Tweaking the timetable isn’t going to fix the real root of the problem.

Spot on JS9 about Public Transport costs and efficiencies. The ACT Government increased expenditure on public transport massively, but the underlying failures in the 2019 bus network re-design has led to worse services for much of Canberra and reduced use of Buses for anyone who lived near one of the 730 bus stops they removed. More money to service less people.

Until someone with balls is willing to tackle the true problem with the costs of public transport in this town (the stranglehold of the unions in terms of working conditions and payments way beyond the reasonable) then the issue will simply get worse. I’m not saying for one second public transport needs to run at a surplus or anything like that – but the conditions bus drivers currently get are well and truly beyond generous. Breaking that stranglehold to get closer to a level of normality would go a long way to a) reducing the overall cost of the service and b) freeing up resources to improve overall service levels.

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