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Thursday, 7 May 1970

Mr ENGLAND (Calare) - Much of the debate this morning has centred on the Vietnam Moratorium, as well it could on an occasion such as this, lt is a grievance with me, but it is not the grievance about which I wish to speak now. I deplore the whole of the circumstances surrounding the Vietnam demonstrations. I will not honour them with the word moratorium', which is rather a clever misnomer. My views on this matter have been made known, quite adequately, to the people I represent in this place through the normal channels in the places where they live and work.

Today I want to speak about the valuation of land, particularly in rural areas, and local government rating as it affects people in the rural community. During my speech in the Address-in-Reply debate I touched on this matter, but I did not have time to develop it as I wanted. It could be said that this matter is a State function, but that is not the case for a number of reasons. First. I shall quote part of a letter that I received from the Treasurer (Mr Bury) when I made inquiries to check on the system of Commonwealth valuations. I shall quote 1 or 2 sentences from that letter. It draws attention to the fact that valuations vary from State to State. But the point I want to bring out is contained in the following words in the Treasurer's letter:

Valuations by the Valuer-General for State death duty or stamp duty purposes are ordinarily accepted without question for Commonwealth estate duty or gift duty purposes.

There is a second reason why this comes into the Commonwealth field. Some Commonwealth properties are within local government areas and are not rateable. Thirdly, the Australian Country Party realises - and I am sure the whole Government does - the impact of local government rates on the rural economy. It was announced in the last Federal election campaign that the policy objective of the Party to which I belong - and I hope it will soon become Government policy - is to grant assistance to local government authorities, through the State

Governments, to provide civic amenities so that the really heavy rate burden about which I am speaking in rural communities will be not increased in future. 1 have some specific figures on valuations. I will confine myself to quoting those that apply to the New South Wales system of valuations. I will quote the figures that apply to my own electorate because they tell a very remarkable story. There are 7 shires which have their headquarters in the electorate which I represent. The total of unimproved capital valuations in the shire of Molong in 1963-64 was $8.4m. By 1969, that is 6 years later, this figure had risen to $ 16.6m. The figure nearly doubled after one valuation. In the shire of Boree in 1962 the figure was $4,182,941. By 1969 it had jumped to the remarkable figure of $15,546,965 in the one valuation. In the shire of Wellington total valuations in 1966 were $7,587,000. Now the total is $16,587,771, which is over double the previous amount. In the shire of Cudgegong the figures rose from $7,752 958 in 1967 to the present figure of $10,735,472. The last one for which I have figures is the shire of Jemalong, where total valuations jumped from $7,477,786 in 1966-67 to the present figure of $23,520,882, which is an almost unbelievable total. There are 2 other shires in my electorate. In one a new valuation is due this year and in the other it is not quite due yet.

What crazy system brings about these figures? If the values are right - and one would only hope that they are - and if a lot of the country could be converted to cash at these values, a lot of people would be doing so. If the values are right now, they were wrong before, and vice versa. They are not right in both cases. I have confined my remarks to New South Wales, but I recall that on 12th March the honourable member for Mallee raised this matter in a question to the Treasurer. From reading that question, I see that much the same type of situation exists in the western part of Victoria. The basis of local government rating is the unimproved capital value of the land, and when the valuations to which I have referred increased they caused a tremendous, staggering increase in rates.

Rates have become one of the major costs confronting the rural industries. In theory, this should not be, because it does not necessarily follow that because a valuation goes up the total rates levied should increase; but in fact something seems to slip up and this situation does come about. Local government rates throughout the areas with which I am familiar have risen very steeply. It is held by organisations in the area from which I come and in other areas throughout New South Wales and the other States that shire rates swallow up about 15% per cent of the gross proceeds from the average wool clip. I will quote an example of the sort of thing that is going on. It is so serious that the landowners in the Waugoola shire held a meeting, and as a result they are refusing to pay the council rates which have been struck for 1970. They say they will pay a rate based on 50% of the 1969 rating because, to use their words, that is a fair and equitable contribution by landowners to local government. It is not a question of discomfort or difficulty. They have come to the position where it is beyond their capacity to pay. We have to look at thos aspect quite closely. In the shire of Waugoola valuations have risen by 100% since 1966.

I lead on to what I think could be part of the solution. On 4th March the Deputy Premier of New South Wales announced that in the next budget the Government would increase the Local Government Assistance Fund to $5m. This Fund is to compensate municipal and shire councils for rates which are not paid on Government property. Four days after the announcement was made the Minister for Local Government called on the Commonwealth Government to contribute to the same fund. He said that he had asked the Commonwealth Treasurer to contribute to this fund on a $1 for SI basis. I do not know what result that approach had. I seek this information from the Government. At the same time I urge that the policy objective of the Australian Country Parly be adopted as Government policy, resulting in Government action. It seems to me that a $1 for $1 subsidy for local government assistance in New South Wales and other States is the type of action that was held in mind when this policy was brought forward.

Finally, as the Commonwealth assesses some of its taxes and duties on the basis of local government valuations, and as the Government is showing so much concern at this time at the position of rural industries, it is up to the Commonwealth Government, when it takes these valuations from a State Valuer-General, to satisfy itself that the valuations have in fact been made on a true and fair basis.

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