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Thursday, 15 November 1973

Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) - The Opposition will support the motion moved by Senator Wood. We support it for a number of reasons. But at the outset I ought to make it quite clear that the Opposition is not opposed to the general principle that the residents of Canberra should pay for the services they receive. That ought to be made clear because when these rates were originally introduced, I think back in 1968, it will be recalled that the present Government, the then Opposition, attempted to have the relevant ordinance disallowed. I think the proposal was to charge $ 10 per pedestal, and we said at that time that some rates ought to be imposed upon the residents of Canberra. What we are saying is that those rates imposed by means of this Ordinance upon class 5 dwellings, I think it is- we talked a lot about hotels and motels- tend to be a punitive tax. We take no exception to the fact that for the normal classes 1, 2, 3 and 4 dwellings the rate has gone from $15 to $25 while the additive charge has gone, I think, from $10 to $12.50. That is fair and reasonable. However, we question why hotels should be singled out to pay $25 for the first pedestal and $50 for each additional pedestal when the remainder of the Canberra community pays basically $25 with a $12.50 additive.

I would like to make just one comment on Senator O'Byrne's comparative figures. It is almost impossible to compare these sorts of figures. As you remarked this morning at question time, Mr President, one ought to attempt to compare comparables. It is not reasonable to compare the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne with the Lakeside Hotel in Canberra or some hotel in Brisbane. There are all sorts of interrelated facts to which one does not have access when making such comparisons. Perhaps I could give a simple illustration of this. With 2 colleagues of mine I happen to be attempting to pay off- I do not own it- a house in Canberra which has 2 pedestals in it. I understand that the sewerage rate to be imposed on my colleagues and I will be $25 per annum. I regard that as a very minor imposition. I live in a country town in Western Australia of some 18,000 people. In my own residence I have 3 pedestals, and I pay some $ 1 04 per annum in sewerage rates.

So if one makes the comparisons made by Senator O 'Byrne, is one really comparing com.parables? If we are talking about equity between the communities, surely the rates paid per pedestal by the residents of my own home town is nowhere near comparable with that paid by the residents of Canberra. The argument may be advanced that the residents of the Capital Territory ought to pay some sort of national average, but I understand the argument that is used in the Capital Territory is that the residents ought to pay a reasonable or proper sum towards the actual cost of what it is costing in Canberra to provide these amenities. We have no quarrel with that. But for me to attempt to compare what I am paying per pedestal in Canberra with what I am paying per pedestal in Bunbury is, I think, a completely futile exercise. They are 2 completely different communities which have different problems in providing these services. The populations are different and everything else that one would like to think of is different. In this instance we are talking of Canberra, which is a planned city. Things are planned well in advance. The honourable senator was comparing these facilities provided in Canberra with those provided in an old city like Melbourne which is almost 140 years old and which has all the problems of constructing sewerage works in built-up areas. I think such comparisons are quite irrelevant. Senator O 'Byrne has offered to table the document from which he has quoted. I should have asked him to do so immediately he sat down. However, he did offer to table it and no doubt he will send it down to the table.

Senator O'Byrne - I now table the document.

Senator WITHERS -Thank you, Senator. I come back to what I said originally. We are not opposed to the concept that the people of the Capital Territory ought to pay a reasonable and just share of the cost of the amenities which are provided out of public finances. What we are opposed to is one group in the community being singled out for what in fact is a punitive tax. For those reasons the Opposition will support the motion for disallowance moved by Senator Wood.

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