Land Tax Valuations
Mr DEBNAM (Vaucluse) [6.14 p.m.]: A matter of great concern in my electorate and in many other electorates across New South Wales is land tax valuations. In this House much has been said about this topic over recent years but the Government has gone quiet on it in recent months. I will recount briefly the history of land tax and the systematic rip-off of taxpayers by the Carr Government with its land tax and valuation system over the past three years. In 1995, the year the Carr Government came to office, the land tax rate was 1.5 per cent and that tax raised almost half a billion dollars. In 1994-95 that tax brought in $510 million. In 1996 the Carr Government increased the tax rate to 1.65 per cent but, not happy with that, further increased it to 1.85 per cent in 1997. That resulted in considerable outrage in a number of electorates.
It was not only the land tax rate increase that caused concern but also the valuation changes that were implemented by the Government. In 1997 the Valuer-General's Office changed its approach considerably and the system of valuing properties was subtly changed. The effect of those subtle changes was dramatic in 1997 and 1998. The revenue from land tax in 1998 was $908 million, almost a billion dollars. That record was exceeded in 1998-99 when $958 million was raised. This year the revenue from land tax will be close to a billion dollars.
In 1998 the Opposition succeeded in establishing an upper House inquiry into land tax and the valuation system. That inquiry, which ran for months, raised many concerns about the way in which the Government was mismanaging the system and ripping off taxpayers. As a result of the inquiry the Opposition was committed to a total review of the valuation system in the run-up to the State election in March 1999. The Premier was forced to match that commitment, and he did so. Prior to that election he promised to review the land tax valuation system. With a little prompting after the election that review was put in place. In October 1999 a report entitled "Report of Inquiry into Operation of Valuation of Land Act" was produced by Julie Walton. The Minister finally released that report just before Christmas 1999.
That report contained a number of very disturbing conclusions and made 22 recommendation. As a result of that report the Government simply set up another committee. The Minister procrastinated on this for many months and in June this year he announced that he would institute many changes. He set up a legislative review group, or so he said. My understanding is that that group has not met, and that if it has met it has not done anything and is not likely to do anything in the next few months. Meanwhile in a press release of 28 June the Minister said that the reforms would be in place for this year's valuations. That simply will not happen. The Minister has a responsibility to give the House information about those reforms, including which of the 22 recommendations of the Walton report will be implemented, and when.
I ask the Minister to inform the House on what dates this so-called legislative review group actually met. I think he will find that it has not met. When is it to meet and when will it propose changes? When will this House see the proposed legislative changes to the valuation system? How will the Minister bring it into the valuation cycle for this year? When will the Minister get the valuations across to the Office of State Revenue so that land tax assessments can be issued? Will all future land tax assessments be based upon the new valuation system? Will the Minister finally agree to reimburse taxpayers who have been systematically ripped off by the Carr Government over the past three years? Will taxpayers who can demonstrate that they have been disadvantaged, when they compare the current valuation system with the new system, be repaid the excess tax that they have paid?
Private members' statements noted.
[Mr Deputy-Speaker left the chair at 6.19 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.]