Thank you, Madam Speaker. There are many things to look forward to about the end of winter and the promise of spring: the riot of golden wattle; longer, warmer days; the flowering of the territory’s many ornamental plum trees; the countdown to summer holidays.
And then there is the arrival of ACT Government rates notices.
I think very few completely honest people, Madam Speaker, will say they eagerly look forward to opening their letterbox to any bill, but the sense of dread experienced by Canberra’s hardworking homeowners at this time of year has only intensified as the annual rates hit from this Labor-Greens government has swelled.
This year’s ACT budget includes record levels of taxation. For the first time, the budget papers show total ACT Government revenue reaching more than $7 billion. Much of this comes from the payment of rates, Madam Speaker, which causes more and more pain with each passing year of this government’s so-called tax reform.
Over the past seven years, the average rates bill increase in my electorate of Ginninderra has reached 106 per cent. Some suburbs have been especially hard hit. Unit owners in Belconnen, for example, have seen their average rates bills soar 147 per cent. The data is clear: rates in 17 of the 20 suburbs across my electorate have doubled since 2011–2012.
This does not, of course, mean that the residents of Ginninderra are opposed to taxation, Madam Speaker. I think we all understand that government services require funding. And the good people of Canberra who speak to me assure me that they are happy to pay their fair share in taxes, including rates.
No, the problem comes, Madam Speaker, when tax bills go up and up and up with no noticeable improvement in government services. In fact, in many cases, the provision of basic services has not only not kept pace with the growth in tax revenue; it hasn’t even kept pace with the growth in population.
And so we have a public hospital, Madam Speaker, that tells a terrified mother in labour that there is no bed for her but that she’s welcome to wait in the tea room along with everyone else. We also have frontline crisis service providers that are unreachable at certain times of the day, and others that are forced to turn away clients that have nowhere else to go.
As noted succinctly by former Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope in last week’s City News, despite the fact that the ACT Government has become adept at taking more and more money from the pockets of Canberra’s families, this year’s budget includes ‘a cut of 0.6 per cent (compounding) for Social protection, and effective cuts to Housing and Community Services and to Health[,] in relation to both of which the agreed growth in funding is less than inflation’.
In the simplest terms, what this means, Madam Speaker, is that ordinary Canberrans are paying more for less. This is the governmental equivalent of working harder for less pay.
I know my neighbours and many of the good people across my electorate. They are honest, decent, hardworking people who love their families, contribute to their communities, and expect this government to give them and all other Canberrans a fair go. I feel justifiably indignant, Madam Speaker, that in the next few days, these people will be opening rates notices that will leave many of them wondering how to make ends meet … and confused how a government that takes so much can do so little with it.