State Taxation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
I rise to speak on the State Taxation Legislation Amendment Bill 2014. The bill performs two major functions. It makes an attempt to improve the catastrophe known as the fire services property levy, and it introduces new revenue measures that are going to yet again hit the hip pockets of members of our communities. These revenue measures involve expanding the congestion levy into mostly Labor-held seats and increasing the gambling revenue.
The Napthine government has again done a dirty, backroom deal with the Independent member for Frankston on the government’s gambling tax hikes, which will not deliver any benefits to local clubs and pubs and will put local jobs at risk on a day when the Australian Bureau of Statistics has come out and said the state of Victoria is the hardest mainland state to get a job in. Despite that, we have this anti-jobs legislation before us today.
There is a bit of interjection coming at me from the other side, and I have to say this is not the first dirty deal this government has done with the Independent member for Frankston.
In fact the government bent over backwards last year when we were in this house debating a bill relating to the maritime domestic vessels legislation. That bill represented yet another slug – another tax hike – for small businesses across the state of Victoria, with the government changing the financial arrangements and commitments that those businesses needed to make.
The Independent member for Frankston was very concerned about this until the chief of staff of the Minister for Ports intervened and put pressure on the Victorian boating association to then put pressure on the member for Frankston to change his position. So this is not the first time, as I said, that we have seen this sort of behaviour from this government in its bending over backwards to try to keep the Independent member for Frankston in its camp in order to be able to slug Victorians with more inappropriate taxes.
As other speakers have said, Labor will be opposing this bill.
In fact we have moved a reasoned amendment:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with the view of inserting in their place the words ‘this bill be withdrawn and redrafted to:
(1) take into account the outcome of extensive public consultation about the proposed amendments to the Congestion Levy Act 2005 and the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, as many are strongly opposed to these provisions; and
(2) retain the remaining provisions relating to the proposed amendments to the Fire Services Property Levy Act 2012 and the Valuation of Land Act 1960.’.
If the reasoned amendment is not agreed to by the government, Labor will be opposing the bill.
The bill was initially scheduled for debate on 11 March, but the Treasurer pulled it when it became apparent that the member for Frankston would not be supporting it. The member for Frankston made his concerns about the impact of the bill on the clubs in his electorate quite clear in the daily media, and they are on the record. Last week the Treasurer put out a press release saying that he had secured the support of the member for Frankston on the basis that the government will extend the period for gaming entitlement repayments for Victorian clubs by six months on an opt-in basis and that a typical club with 60 gaming machines will see its annual repayment obligations reduce by around $67 000.
It is all good and well to one week be opposing the impact on our communities, our clubs and our jobs, but all of a sudden following a few backroom meetings there has been a complete backflip by the member for Frankston because obviously his clubs have been looked after. Clubs and their peak bodies have expressed their disappointment at this result and have said the relief that these small changes will provide will be negligible at best. It goes to the core of democracy in this Parliament. The Napthine government has again done a dirty backroom deal to gouge from the pockets of the community and clubs and put jobs at risk.
I would like to touch on the issue of the congestion levy and the expansion of its catchment area.
There is absolute hypocrisy here in that many times government members, when in opposition, were on the record opposing the introduction of the congestion levy, but as soon as they were in government they jumped at the opportunity to increase it from $1500 to $1300 almost overnight, and now they are looking to expand the area covered by the congestion levy far beyond what was originally intended. This will gouge from the pockets of residents in the outer suburbs who are forced to drive into the city because there are no bus services in the areas that link to the train stations and because the timetables of the few bus services in those areas do not coincide with the train timetables. They are forced onto the roads.
A great example of the congestion on our roads is the race that took place yesterday from the city of Wyndham into the city of Melbourne when commuters on bikes, in cars and in a speedboat came into the city. The people in cars took over 100 minutes to get into town because of the traffic; some took up to 70 minutes to do a combination of driving to a station and then getting a train into the city. The fastest commuter into town was a person on a bike. It goes to show just how well the government is dealing with congestion and public transport. If it were to be marked on it, it would get a zero.
The government is looking to expand the congestion levy into other areas. While the government says it is providing better public transport options, the reality is that it is not. The links to get people from the outer suburbs into the city have not improved; in fact they have gotten worse when you take into account population growth. Without those services people are being forced onto the roads, and now their pockets will be gouged in order to find a parking space not only in the inner city but also in the expanded catchment. Thousands more commuters will be forced to pay the $1300 tax because they do not have any other option and because the government has let down the residents in the growth areas, the regions and the outer suburbs by not providing proper transport services to enable them to avoid the congested roads.
The government is not doing enough about congestion. It is not investing enough in the outer suburbs.
We on this side of the house have a plan to provide a world-class public transport system, and we have a commitment to reducing congestion and increasing liveability for not just those who live within a 10-kilometre radius of Melbourne but also those who live in the suburbs and regions and are treated like second-class citizens or ignored by this government. Only we on this side of the house have a long-term vision for real solutions to the congestion facing Melbourne, the suburbs and the regions. We will remove the 50 deadly level crossings, thereby enabling traffic to flow across our suburbs, we will run hundreds of extra trains and we will start work on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. These are our plans. We plan to get 5000 trucks off the West Gate Bridge by building a West Gate distributor and designating $1 billion for suburban roads and $1 billion for country roads.
We have a real commitment to dealing with congestion, unlike the government. What is its answer to dealing with congestion?
It says, ‘Let’s just put up the price of parking, and let’s try to charge more people, but let’s not take that money and put it back into fixing congestion’. The government is not doing that. It is looking to raise revenue and put it in its back pocket to pay for its dud tunnel. That is not a solution to congestion and definitely not a solution for residents in the outer suburbs.