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- Start of Business
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Marek, Paul, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Baldwin, Bob, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Draper, Trish, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Goods and Sales Tax
(Evans, Gareth, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Slipper, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Redundancy and Termination Entitlements
(Andren, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(Evans, Richard, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Hollis, Colin, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Skase, Mr C.
(Wakelin, Barry, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
(O'Connor, Gavan, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Lloyd, Jim, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Crean, Simon, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Gash, Joanna, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Hardgrave, Gary, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
- Small Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL RESPONSES
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE BILL 1997 [No. 2]
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (PLANNING AND LAND MANAGEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- LAW OFFICERS AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 3) 1997
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Social Security Payments
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Jones, Barry, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Sirway Asia Pacific Contract
(Bevis, Arch, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Department of Industry, Science and Tourism: Consultants
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Moore, John, MP)
- Japanese Economy
Tuesday, 10 March 1998
Ms ELLIS (5:27 PM) —At the outset I must say that this proposal arouses passion on both sides of the debate within the ACT. Canberrans are passionate about their city. I feel confident in saying that they value the environment in which they live and are suspicious of actions which may in any way open that environment to any form of abuse in the future. I believe that the leasehold system has enabled the development and growth of this city to a level of environmental and urban excellence. I know that a majority of the residents would agree with me on that. The history behind the leasehold system in the ACT has been well documented and discussed often, and is there for those interested to further examine if they wish. I do not intend to go over that history again here today.
What we really have here is a proposal which attempts to address perceptions; not proven realities, but perceptions. The perception is, I understand, that business investment in the ACT is discouraged because of the 99-year lease arrangement. It is argued—and this has been the argument in previous years—that, ideally, a move to freehold would remove those perceived disincentives. There has never been a real example of an investor purposely deciding not to invest here because of the 99-year lease system. In fact, as previous speakers have mentioned and I wish to mention again, there are many places around the world where leasehold systems operate to enormous levels of success, amongst which is Singapore. Some people say, and I had it said to me again today, that some of our neighbours in Asia have a particular problem in dealing with the leasehold system. Whilst not actually denying that, I immediately asked the question, `Well, if that's the case, where does Singapore, for example, get its investment from?'
Another major question is one of revenue. Some people claim that there are no revenue implications; others claim that revenue implications are there implicitly. In discussing that particular point of the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Amendment Bill 1997 , I will refer to the explanatory memorandum, which is worth a close reading. On page 2, under the heading `Problem or issue', it says:
An amendment to the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 is proposed to address a perceived disincentive to business and other investment in Canberra, brought about by the limit of land tenure to 99-year estates, as distinct from freehold title enjoyed elsewhere in Australia.
Further down page 2 of the explanatory memorandum, four options are outlined for consideration in reaching the decision that the government has made in presenting this particular piece of legislation. The costs and benefits of the four options are also listed. It is interesting that the same cost is included for each of the three options, including for the change to a 999-year lease period as the preferred option. On page 3 of the explanatory memorandum it says:
The opportunity for the ACT Government to raise revenue through fees for renewal at the end of a lease would potentially occur only once every 999 years instead of 99 years. However, revenue can still be raised for changes in lease purposes.
I reiterate that that cost is attached to each of the three options in the explanatory memorandum that pursues the wish for a 999-year lease period. The one option that does not include that is the one that says `No legislative action'. Amongst the benefits of that option that are listed, one says:
Potential for raising revenue through renewal fees.
Under the costs of that option it says:
Continued perceived disincentive to investment in Canberra.
The Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government (Mr Somlyay) referred to these perceptions in his second reading speech. What concerns me most about this proposal is that we keep coming back to the argument about perceptions of potential investors.
As has already been explained, residential leases are automatically renewed. Under the current regime, commercial leases, as I understand it, are similarly virtually automatically renewed, should there be no change to the purpose of the lease at the time. Whatever administrative charges need to be made are made at that time. The illusion that somehow changing to perpetual lease will dramatically change the base upon which business operates should be further considered.
In doing so, I preface my comments by drawing attention to the capital property trust which operates in the ACT. It is one of the most successful in the country in its field. It was established here on a leasehold system of 99-year leases. I understand that, in general terms, capital investment has a payback period in the commercial world. I understand from advice I have had that it is around seven to 10 years—maybe a bit longer or maybe a bit shorter, depending upon the amount of capital invested—and that this is an accepted and reasonable business horizon. What difference in impact would there be on capital business between 99 years and 999 years when you are talking about a business horizon for capital investment?
It is possible that the period of the lease is not really the question: more likely, it is the perceived freedom that could come with virtual perpetual leases. Is any control of our planning likely over time to be relinquished by Canberra ratepayers should this proposal occur? I do not know the answer to that question. I am posing it. As the member for Canberra (Mr McMullan) stated earlier, this item has been off the local political agenda for some time although, interestingly, it reappeared in the lead-up to the recent ACT election.
I will make a couple of serious suggestions. Should problems be faced by potential investors in the ACT and by business people who are already here—business people whom I know personally who have worked hard and had the faith in this town to invest over the years, and through whose investment a lot of the growth and development in the ACT have occurred, and I commend them for that—I do not believe that a change from 99- to 999-year leases is going to affect that one iota.
These problems would be far better addressed at the ACT government level, without any need to come to the federal parliament at all. If all the energy that was going into this proposal were directed to fixing up the planning and approval processes within the ACT government level, without a doubt, that would have an immediate impact on investment in the ACT. You do not need to talk to many business people around this town before you start noticing a very consistent theme: their frustrations start and finish almost exclusively with the planning and approval processes that they must go through.
I am not going to pretend that I have the answers to that. In a town like Canberra, where planning has been so beautifully done over the years, there is a lot of concern that certain levels of acceptance be maintained. From my observations, investment here will not automatically change with this particular legislative change. What will assist, without any doubt whatsoever, is a proficient, fair and expeditious planning and approval process and regime.
When I was in Melbourne recently, I had the opportunity to have lengthy discussions with the mayors of two very large cities in urban and outer urban Melbourne. In both cases, they were facing problems similar to Canberra's. They needed to re-establish an employment base after their employment base had been eroded by actions outside their control—a very large industrial base had closed down. In our case, a very large employer, the Public Service, has been downgraded and outsourced at great speed.
In both cases, they were looking at ways to inventively promote investment, development and growth in their economies. I asked both of them what they were doing to start that process. They both said, `You have to have a regime in place so that when the investor walks in the door you are ready for them, you can cope with their proposals and, given the appropriate regimes and checks, it can happen smoothly, quickly and with no undue delay.'
That is not what appears to happen in the ACT, and I would say that the energy going into this debate should be going into that very area. I will finish on a slightly cynical note and I do not apologise for it. The other thing that would assist would be a Prime Minister and a federal government who actually carry out policies in this town that encourage growth and an economic future and do not erode them away. With that, Mr Deputy Speaker, I fully endorse the comments of the two previous speakers, despite the rude interjections.