Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I will speak briefly on the State Taxation Acts Amendment Bill 2017. I have to say I was kind of drawn towards speaking to it after listening to opposition members with their ‘No new taxes’ rhetoric, but I did not hear a single solution. They say, ‘No new taxes, but we want to lock more people up, we want more roads in the country, we want better bridges in the country, we want better rail, we want more jobs for our country young people, we want better TAFEs, but we have nothing to pay for it’. Recently I visited Wollert in the Northern Metropolitan Region. Just a few years ago it was a small town on the edge of Melbourne, but I am told it now takes people nearly 2 hours to get into the city.
We need to raise some revenue to build some new roads, to build the hospital in the north that we so desperately need, to make the improvements to the hospital in the north that we so desperately need, to look at where our children are going to get jobs in the 21st century and to encourage businesses here. I also have to confess that one of my election promises was that I did not feel it was my role to oppose governments by stopping the budget decisions that they made. We have not actually seen the circulation of the amendments, but my understanding from being on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee is that if we were to remove all of those tax revenue items from the budget we would be looking at — what; $30 billion? — billions of dollars. So I have to say, obviously from a more modest position than the opposition, that it is not my role to do that.
However, where I did have some real issues was around the property value functions, the valuer-general and the centralisation of those services. I have to say that the north is growing at an incredible speed. The councils in those areas are really stretched, and they made some very strong and compelling arguments to me around their frustrations and the impact that this proposal would have on those local councils. They also felt that there was a considerable lack of consultation in this area, and I have to say there were some councils who were struggling to meet the demands of 60 new housing applications a week and 60 new babies a week in Whittlesea alone, let alone the growth that is happening in Hume and the growth that is happening in Banyule, Darebin and Moreland.
I understood — and they put their argument very well — that we were going to see that this would create significant revenue losses for councils, which would lead to the cuts of more council jobs, the flow-on cost of funding staff redundancies, the potential increases in rates, the increases in total land tax collected and the compromised oversighting. So the fact that we are now centralising it would provide some compromise to the oversight of fair land values.
I particularly want to thank the cities of Whittlesea and Stonnington for their advocacy on these issues. I think they were able to very eloquently put forward their concerns, and I was very concerned about them. I have since been somewhat reassured by the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) about the commitments that we are yet to see from the government — the commitments that the government has made to the MAV — that no council will be out by even one dollar on this, that councils will have greater flexibility in this area and that there will even be some form of an opt-out structure for those local councils.
I have to say, though, I have not seen the actual regulations and I have not seen the detail. I am told that this is where we are going to address a lot of the concerns that a number of the councils raised with me. Certainly a number of the councils that I spoke to after the Municipal Association of Victoria and the government agreed on a set of principles said that they were satisfied with that. But as I say, we have not actually seen those resolutions and how they are going to look within the legislation. But on balance I support this bill for the reasons that I have given.
I of course think there are better ways of increasing revenue in this state, and I think that is about attracting new businesses to this state. This is about — I do not usually miss an opportunity to say it — taxing, regulating and legalising the sale of cannabis. We have got the opportunities for a very large medicinal cannabis industry. I look forward to those sorts of innovative programs that we can attract to this region, particularly my region in the north, and I know Mr Ondarchie feels the same. We could be providing so much more infrastructure around food networks for Australia given the great opportunity that we have with the 24-hour airport to be a real transport hub for Australia, and even the prospect of seeing Amazon in Victoria in the near future I think is promising. Those are the areas that I hope will attract revenue to this state that will enable us to build the infrastructure and the services that daily all of us are hearing our constituents calling out for. So I commend this bill — if we actually get a bill through tonight.