Coe reaffirms four-year rates freeze in face of Barr’s ‘cynical stunt’

Ian Bushnell 18 June 2020 78
Alistair Coe

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe: ”You will have a lower rates bill every single year under the Canberra Liberals.” Photo: Michelle Kroll

Cynical, an election stunt and an admission that the ACT tax reform agenda is unfair – that was Opposition Leader Alistair Coe’s response to the ACT Government’s announcement of its own rates freeze.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has provided rates relief for most ratepayers for the financial year as part of the COVID-19 economic recovery plan, and at the same time moved to outmanoeuvre the Canberra Liberals who have long promised to freeze rates over the term of the next government.

Mr Barr said rates relief it was not something that could be done every year into the future, but Mr Coe reaffirmed his commitment to ratepayers that their bills will not rise for four years if the Liberals win power at the 17 October election.

”You will have a lower rates bill every single year under the Canberra Liberals,” he said.

Mr Coe called Mr Barr’s move a ”flash in the pan announcement by a government in a very cynical move before the election and an admission that their rates regime is hurting Canberra families”.

”For years they’ve been increasing rates, they changed the methodology for units and made a hefty apartment tax and now, on the eve of an election, they are trying to buy their way out of the political mess and the hardship that they’ve created,” Mr Coe said.

Mr Coe would not say how the Liberals would pay for the rate freeze or where savings would have to be made, but he said it would cost a modest $175 million over fours years, or about half a per cent of revenue over that period.

”We are very confident that we can easily afford this. It’s a modest but very important commitment,” he said.

Mr Coe said the government move showed it was worried about the rates regime and suggested it was trying to backtrack after a decade of increases.

”I think Andrew Barr is massively underrating Canberrans’ ability to see through these little stunts,” he said.

Mr Coe cited the case of pensioner David from Giralang whose rates have gone form $1100 a year to $2500 a year and keep going up.

”$1400 a year for a pensioner is a massive amount,” Mr Coe said. ”Does anybody really think that their urban services are getting better as a result of their rates going up year on year? Anywhere else in the country a mayor would get tossed out.”

The ACT Labor Government is halfway through a 20-year tax reform program praised by economists for shifting to a property-based system in which other inefficient taxes and levies are gradually reduced and eventually scrapped, including stamp duty.

Mr Coe says those reductions have been negligible compared to the rate rises Canberrans have experienced.

The Liberals’ position spells doom for the reform program, which it has consistently attacked, if they win government.

Mr Barr says the government is not about to rethink the reform program, saying that after a decade the rate of increases is falling and the heavy lifting has been done.

He will hope to have blunted the Liberals’ rates attack but Mr Coe believes the issue will remain a stark point of difference between the two main parties come October.

”Families have been hurting for a long time, they need genuine relief, not just an election pivot that Andrew Barr has made four months out from an election,” he said.

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78 Responses to Coe reaffirms four-year rates freeze in face of Barr’s ‘cynical stunt’
Kim Kim 11:06 am 20 Jun 20

I’m so sorry Mike of Canberra, all that angst and pent up anger going into 20 years of a Labor government in the ACT. I’m one of those lefties and am not about to shut up yet. I don’t have the room to reply to all of your rant, however I am a Canberra rate payer (received my rates notice yesterday) and care deeply about our Education system, health, social justice, transport, infrastructure, and all the other many services our rates pay for. I live close to the tram but don’t use it, I am lucky that my family is healthy and we very rarely use the hospital or health system and my children have left school. If the government took your self-serving attitude to everything that was built in the ACT we wouldn’t have anything. The Canberra Liberals have recklessly promised to freeze rates for the next 4 years but have not announced what services they will cut to replace this revenue loss. Oh, and by the way, Nicole Lawder is in the Assembly despite receiving a vote at the 2016 election 144 less than the quota and the results are clearly published on the ElectionsACT website. She is also the deputy leader and was ejected from the Chamber earlier this month for her obnoxious behaviour, behaviour which Vicki Dunne later apologised for.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 8:35 pm 20 Jun 20

    Kim, please see my original comment. If you can comfortably pay these exorbitant rates (and other charges with which Barr slugs us), you clearly do have more money than sense. As for Nicole Lawder, it’s no surprise she needed preferences to get elected given the overall poor performance of the Libs at that election. The sensitivity of lefties to my comments indicates to me that this election is shaping to be much closer.

    noid noid 5:10 pm 22 Jun 20

    The ACT rates and other fees and charges have been raising significantly over the years under this government and this is at a time of lowest inflation and stagnant wage growth. How can these increases which far exceed CPI be justified and I hate to think what they will be when the economy picks up again and we get higher interest rates and wages. This implies to me that money management is not a strong point by this government. By voting in someone else it is potentially possible to get better result, by not, we just get the same BS. I think this mob has had plenty of time now, time for a change.

    JC JC 8:51 pm 22 Jun 20

    Mike rates have increased in the ACT that is for sure. However exorbitant? Our rates even with the rises are quite reasonable compared to most of Australia. And especially compared to major Australian cities.

    noid noid 4:41 pm 23 Jun 20

    Yeah but it’s not just rates it’s all the other fees and charges as well………… Using other states fees and charges as an excuse to raise ours is a cope out. Funny how it is only the fees and charges that are greater get taken up and not the ones that are lower e.g car rego in NSW. Also our rates may be on par now but depending on the election outcome they could be raising again by 10% a year for the next 4 years. If a new government is elected I hope they carryout a thorough audit on the spending of this current government because from where I sit I do not feel we have been getting good value for money from our rates and taxes paid. And this has been in a time when revenue has been at its highest.

    I am a Rabbit™ I am a Rabbit™ 9:06 pm 23 Jun 20

    The ACT has below average local government tax rates compared to other state and territory jurisdictions. If you want to see eye-watering local taxes, try moving to Sydney.

Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 10:53 am 20 Jun 20

Both Robyn Holder and Neenie Baines seem to be under the mistaken impression that the two parties’ rates policies are identical. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as I discovered when I sought to clarify this issue myself. On the one hand, Barr very trickily proposes to freeze the rating factor that is applied to land value to come up with each householder’s rates figure. This means that, under Barr, rates will continue to increase as land values increase. The only circumstance in which you will get a decrease is if your land value falls, something I doubt many people wish to see happen. On the other hand, Coe is simply advocating a freeze on all rates at their current level for 4 years, regardless of movements in land value. This means your rates don’t move for 4 years. There is a world of difference between these two policies and I know which one I prefer. As a hint, in seeking to reduce the differentiation from his policies the Liberals have established, Barr is effectively selling us a damp squib. Don’t be fooled!

    JC JC 10:32 pm 20 Jun 20

    All well and good except the cost of living even for government goes up every year. So so even if earning the same money what the government provides for that money will drop. Yet already grandiose promises are being made that will cost more. Now that doesn’t make much sense.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 11:34 am 21 Jun 20

    No JC, what makes sense that governments must balance their desire to expand their policy and program horizons against the need to maintain tax and ratepayer affordability. What is the point of driving ordinary people out of this city because it’s become unaffordable in the name of so-called progress? If Barr wants to find new and exciting things to spend our money on or, as you note, to compensate for year on year cost increases, he needs to find areas in which he can economise. As I’ve said before, a key way of doing this would be to establish a Commission of Audit as a means of identifying more efficient and affordable ways of getting done the things we need to get done. But that would mean showing a bit of flair and imagination wouldn’t it, something Barr has already shown is beyond him.

    JS9 JS9 7:10 pm 22 Jun 20

    Commissions of Audit are a furphy. They take a ‘snapshot’ in time, point to whatever the party commissioning it doesn’t like, and then disappear in the neverland, never to be heard of again.

    There is an expenditure review area within ACT Government already…. and has been for several years. Yet what have they achieved.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 11:26 pm 19 Jun 20

Cynical is Labor does it, brilliant if he does.

Sol Sol 9:56 pm 19 Jun 20

Is this the same guy that the Canberra Times called out for a fake endorsement? Like that “political stunt”?

noid noid 8:30 pm 19 Jun 20

After 20 years of Green/Labor when last reported in December 11 2019 the hospital has only 46 per cent of ACT’s emergency patients seen on time – the lowest rate in the country. The bus transport system is a mess, my suburb Cawell has had significantly more crime (see feeling unsafe in Tuggeranong). My rates have more than tripled over that period along with other fees and charges with no extra or improvement to services. Getting a tram I will most likely never use but continue to pay for for the see able future and with working from home being a great option now others not either. Not to mention the dodgy building and land deals being done. The truth be told how can I be any worse off with someone else? If so its only a 4 year wait.

    realist realist 11:07 pm 19 Jun 20

    Thanks Mike of Canberra,
    It is great to hear someone who is realistic to say how it really is. We need to have a change of government. It is not just the rates, it is our medical system, it is the promises to address the poor quality of buildings, it is the promise to get engineers registered, it is not listening what the community really wants in Canberra ….. the list goes on and now Barr is suddenly making promises because the elections are in October – rate reductions, new public housing sites to meet the targets set at the previous elections….etc. Wake up Canberra – stop voting because that is the way you have always voted, vote for what is best for the community and the future of Canberra.

    JC JC 10:29 pm 20 Jun 20

    “ vote for what is best for the community and the future of Canberra.”

    Yup that is how I shall be voting. Though I suspect I won’t be voting for the same party had you. And that’s the thing people get all high and mighty about doing what is best, but what is best is totally subjective.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 12:36 pm 21 Jun 20

    It’s up to you how you vote JC but I’d suggest you undertake this process while looking through both eyes, not just one.

    JC JC 6:13 pm 21 Jun 20

    Mike I would suggest you take some of your own advice. It is rather clear you are about as one eyed as I am.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 12:53 pm 21 Jun 20

    Thanks Noid. Yes I agree we shouldn’t focus just on rates affordability, important as it is, but also the other areas of policy failure you have highlighted. It all points to a government past it use-by date and a city badly in need of a change of government.

Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 8:26 pm 19 Jun 20

My word, the lefties infesting this site are really busy with this article. Anyone who doesn’t think Canberrans need rates relief clearly have more money than sense. In fact, one could almost call them elitists. Anyone who is prepared to judge Coe this far out from the election and to use a concrete promise to provide financial relief to the majority of Canberrans as part of their criticism clearly needs to open the other eye. Anyone who believes Barr is a decent budget manager when he hasn’t yet been able to balance his budgets, even in boom times, even with record revenues, is obviously as addicted to excessive, needless spending as he is. Anyone who believes Barr is spending his revenue windfall wisely obviously hasn’t tried to walk on the footpaths in my area. And do any of the other commenters believe that Barr’s supposed “rate relief” just announced is anything other than a con – you still pay more as your property value increases and only pay less if your value decreases, not a result anyone would be seeking I would imagine. On the other hand, the Libs offer real, not imaginary rate relief by actually freezing the amount you pay, not the rate at which the land value is taxed as Barr does. Oh and by the way, the deputy leader of the Liberals is Nicole Lawder and she appears to be in the Assembly and thus must have won a quota in 2016. In summary, those commenting on this article will grasp at any straw to oppose any vote for change. Tough luck – there are plenty of the rest of us who are keen for change and I hope we see such a result in October.

    JC JC 4:37 am 20 Jun 20

    My word the righties have their backs right up.

    Anyway people are and should be judging Coe from this far out, just like people should be judging Labor. It not just about promises made in an election campaign it is about a lot more than that, ideology, performance over the last and previous terms and policy. You yourself are quite clearly judging Labor, I think most certainly on ideology but clearly on your perception of past performance. Why Coe cannot be judged the same is beyond me.
    Secondly in relation to the liberal deputy I assume you were referring to Kim’s post below, sadly she is right very few would have heard of Nicole Lawder let alone even know she was deputy. You hear more from Elizabeth Lee, Mark Parton and Giulia Jones.

    As for quotas you can get elected without a full quota, but that could only apply to the last person elected. In Brindabella last time a quota was 7806 Lawder received 7662 so Kim was right on that point.

    Not that it matters she was obviously elected, but I think the point Kim may have been making is Lawder was the last person elected in that electorate, she is hardly ever heard of yet is deputy.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 8:36 pm 20 Jun 20

    Actually JC, as a swinging voter, I’m quite entitled to judge this government on performance given they’ve been in government for going on 20 years. Ideology doesn’t come into it. I felt the quality of this government early on, especially under Stanhope was pretty good (I voted for him a couple of times). However, it’s been pretty much downhill since then. As for Coe, he’s making a pretty fair fist of seeking election from opposition against a government whose ideology appears to be a closer fit with the so-called intelligent Canberra voter. He hasn’t been in government for us to judge his performance, so we can only go on policies, which Coe seems to be releasing at a measured rate. However, given the amount of hubris we see from Barr and company, it seems to me that a change is needed – after all, if we do change the government in October, it will only be 4 years before the new government has to account for its performance to the electorate. To me, this is a reasonable proposition.

    JC JC 6:20 pm 21 Jun 20

    You don’t need to be in government to judge someone. You can judge them in opposition.

    My judgement and yes I know I am rather one eyed (I did vote liberal in NSW once though) is that Coe couldn’t organise a chook raffle let alone run the territory.

    Their so called polices are basically say you are going to do the opposite of what the government is doing that the social media mob doesn’t like.

    A few cases come to mind, health, rates, transport and development. All things that get people’s backs up but other than day you will do the opposite of the government what is the plan? How will the fix health, transport, rates (once reality sets in) and planning. Oh planning we know the answer plant some trees! Oh great policy when especially when as the debate on this site as shown that the costing of that policy is not even close to reality.

    So yeah I am certain Coe can and should be judged as easily as Barr.

    Oh and the bloke came to my house 6 weeks ago on a door knock and I’ve seen him at the shops recently too, just comes across in person as a smug snake in the grass. Though on that point Barr comes across that way too.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 10:09 am 22 Jun 20

    Nice to see your attempt at even-handedness, at least in your token throwaway criticism of Barr.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:55 am 20 Jun 20

    Anyone thinking Canberrans need rate relief is deluded.

    The government’s change from relying on stamp duty to broad based land taxes is their best policy.

    It’s clearly what we should be doing to create a more efficient and stable taxation base.

    You can whinge about how the government spends money (as I do regularly) but focusing on rates is lazy politics at its worst.

    The government need money to function. It should raise those funds as efficiently as possible to minimise wider economic harm.

    That’s exactly why this reform is good and we should accept the shift to higher rates and no stamp duty.

    And I say that as someone who owns property and has to pay these higher taxes.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 8:38 pm 20 Jun 20

    No one argues about tax reform, least of all me. Of course I knew all along that our rates would go up once stamp duties were abolished. It just seems to me that, especially in the last few years, the level of increase has been greater than that required to compensate for the loss of stamp duty revenue. In other words, Barr looks to have grabbed the chance to create some “rivers of gold” that will fuel his big-spending ways, all at the expense of hard-pressed ratepayers. This overlays opportunism on top of the original necessary reforms. When governments begin to act this way, you know they’ve been there too long and it’s time for change. That is exactly why I am calling for such change.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:55 am 21 Jun 20

    That is just wrong though.

    The reason why there was higher revenues is because house prices were rising and so more stamp duty was paid.

    It’s literally the problem that they are trying to fix where revenues can fluctuate significantly.

    If house prices had decreased, I’m sure you wouldn’t have been complaining that they didn’t take enough revenue, correct?

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 10:13 am 22 Jun 20

    Chewy, rates were always going up to rising house prices and because of the switch away from stamp duties. But rates have now tripled, something the Libs forecast when Barr first proposed his reform program. They were pooh-poohed at the time, especially by Barr himself, but they’ve been borne out. Trust Barr? I don’t think so.

    JC JC 9:03 pm 22 Jun 20

    My rates haven’t tripled. Not even close to it. Mine have gone from about $1400 8 years ago to $2100. That’s an average of 6% per year over 8 years or an increase of 57%. So not even close to triple.

    Of course I don’t live in an inner city area where my land values have gone through the roof, for most the increase in land values is what is driving rate increases.

    Oh and in wasn’t being even handed in my “criticism” of Barr As you gathered. I make no secret of my political beliefs. Though I do struggle with the vitriol you are displaying towards labor whilst somehow pretending to be the model of objectivity.

    Of course you, like I am fully entitled to have what ever political view we like, my point though is maybe don’t pretend to be objective when expressing those views.

Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 7:20 pm 19 Jun 20

Isn’t it the same election stunt that Coe was performing? 🤦‍♀️

noid noid 7:15 pm 19 Jun 20

Sell off the services………….at least I might start getting so then.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:22 pm 19 Jun 20

” it would cost a modest $175 million over fours years, or about half a per cent of revenue over that period.”

With interest rates unlikely to rise much (if at all) above their current near-zero level for government borrowings for some years, and with economic commentators constantly talking about the need to support what’s left of the private sector economy, this should be a quite affordable stimulatory measure – as well as providing real respite for people on low incomes.

People who want to attack this proposal on the grounds of “where’s the money coming from”, and run scare campaigns about consequent “slashing and burning of services” will, of course, need to answer the same question about Labor/Green spending promises in the lead up to October.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:01 am 20 Jun 20

    It’s lazy politics attempting to pander to the ignorant.

    You can attack the government for wasteful spending but their move to rely heavily on broad based land taxes is a solid economic reform.

    If you want to say this move for reduced rates is justified as a stimulatory policy, you’re kidding yourself. There are far more efficient means to directly stimulate the economy rather than reducing rates to people who are mostly well off by definition.

    I know, I’m one of them.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 7:51 pm 21 Jun 20

    First, no one, certainly not me, is complaining about the reform of moving away from stamp duties and towards more reliable land tax-based sources of revenue. The complaint comes from the dual perception that Barr and company are addicted to spending, with too much of this being wasteful, and that as a result, rates are higher than they need to be. In other words, Barr is gouging ratepayers in the name of legitimate taxation reform. This simply isn’t acceptable.

    chewy14 chewy14 9:19 am 22 Jun 20

    That’s the point though, they aren’t taking any extra money, they aren’t gouging you with higher rates.

    The sole reason they have received higher revenue amounts in recent years is because house prices and land values have been increasing. The poor home ratepayers you are backing (And I’m one of them) have been getting richer.

    The problem of the fluctuating revenues of stamp duty is the problem the reform is designed to remove.

    As I’ve said above, if house and land prices have flatlined or dropped, you wouldn’t be complaining that they weren’t charging enough, would you.

    You can complain about government spending and individual spending items and in a lot of areas I’d support that position.

    But to complain about rates being too high is extremely lazy, illogical and almost wholly comes from people talking through their pockets.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 12:14 pm 22 Jun 20

    You know that for a fact do you? Back in 2012 when the Libs predicted Barr’s changes would lead to a tripling of rates, Barr was the first to attack them for being misleading. Well, rates have tripled due to this reform and the Libs were right then, just as Barr was disingenuous to attack them for their prediction. The other thing I keep on saying is that, however legitimate the tax/rates changes currently being implemented and I do acknowledge their legitimacy, Barr appears incapable of balancing his budgets even with record revenue flows. This can only put pressure on rates.

    chewy14 chewy14 5:30 pm 22 Jun 20

    Yes I do know it for a fact because I can read the published budget numbers.

    Perhaps you should aquaint yourself with them.

    And no rates haven’t tripled, you’re just spouting a meaningless election slogan used to fool the ignorant. Over time all prices will triple, it’s meaningless. Eventually they will get to say they’re correct but it hasn’t happened yet.

    You can focus on spending areas that you think are wasteful but as I said, focusing on rates is just lazy politics designed to sway those who are thinking solely through their own pockets.

    The biggest issue is not that that are lifting rates too much but rather too slowly. They should just accelerate the program and get it done wholly in the next 4 years.

    Then, the focus and blowtorch could be better applied to government spending as a whole to rein in the wasteful areas.

    JS9 JS9 7:19 pm 22 Jun 20

    It is genuinely reasonable to ask what will offset these reduced revenue streams however.

    Coe has also said he’ll abolish payroll tax… a line that brings in more than half a billion dollars a year. Even with the best program in the world to identify savings, where are they going to fill these holes without wholesale cuts to services provided to the community.

    I’m not for one second suggesting there isn’t plenty of waste to be trimmed – but they should be honest upfront about what they will do and what they will target to offset the loss of revenue. Its not like we are running massive surpluses as it is….

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 5:22 pm 19 Jun 20

Sell off services ... outsource govt services ... then contract everything to your mates ... finally outsource democracy to corporations ... 😎👍

    David Edwards David Edwards 5:43 pm 19 Jun 20

    Jack yep, that’s what Barr is doing, what’s your point?

    Brenton Higgins Brenton Higgins 9:00 am 21 Jun 20

    Hahaha got any evidence of that champ? What’s been outsourced? Do tell?

Kim Kim 1:57 pm 19 Jun 20

Yes Acton, just another yawnfest

Stuart Shiell Stuart Shiell 11:25 am 19 Jun 20

And what government entities will he privatise ?

Acton Acton 11:17 am 19 Jun 20

What is the point of even going through the farce of having an election?

Duncan Hinton Duncan Hinton 11:16 am 19 Jun 20

Sounds like the typical electoral promise that will never eventuate

Kim Kim 11:03 am 19 Jun 20

Oh Alistair do you really think Canberrans look at you as an alternative leader? 20 years in opposition and your conservative party still has no policies going into the election 4 months away. Your deputy, who no-one knows, didn’t even reach a quota in the last election. You think you are bigger than the party. Step down.

Michael Babb Michael Babb 9:13 am 19 Jun 20


Scott Humphries Scott Humphries 8:55 am 19 Jun 20

"Mr Coe would not say how the Liberals would pay for the rate freeze or where savings would have to be made."

Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 8:43 am 19 Jun 20

Cool, 4 years of stagnation, lost of services, infrastructure and more

Louise Flood Louise Flood 8:01 am 19 Jun 20

So when the government announces it he calls it a pre-election icynical stunt but when Coe announces it pre- election it is not a cynical stunt?

    Brenton Higgins Brenton Higgins 8:59 am 21 Jun 20

    To be fair, do we expect any less from Coe?

Greg Miller Greg Miller 7:55 am 19 Jun 20

The Liberals say their rate cuts can be easily afforded. So what are they cutting to be able to say this?

    Shiva Sapkota Shiva Sapkota 8:13 am 19 Jun 20

    Greg Miller stamp duty will stay as is to fund it, easy! We need stamp duty to be zero for median houses so we can move anywhere in Canberra.

    Sue Harvey Sue Harvey 3:51 pm 19 Jun 20

    Greg Miller they’ll cut jobs even though they say they won’t.

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