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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 697


Senator PETER RAE(3.14) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The annual report of the Tasmanian State Grants Commission is made, pursuant to State legislation, to the two Houses of the Tasmanian Parliament. But under Commonwealth legislation, because after all it is Commonwealth money, the report is tabled in this House and, I understand, in the House of Representatives. The report is dated 18 August 1983. It has been more than a little delayed in reaching this chamber and I ask the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs ( Senator Ryan) whether she could, through the appropriate channels, inquire into the reasons for the delay between the presentation of this report on 18 August 1983 and its appearance here.

I would like to draw attention to two aspects of the report. One is that Tasmania's entitlement was initially fixed at 2.86 per cent of the total. That was under the Commonwealth legislation when it was first introduced in 1976. Following a limited review conducted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1977, the State's proportion was increased to 3.1977 per cent of the total funds available, and this percentage has remained unchanged since 1977-78. I trust that, notwithstanding certain matters which may even be going on at the moment involving discussions between the State of Tasmania and the Commonwealth, there is no question that Tasmania's entitlement under the Commonwealth tax sharing legislation will in any way be reduced from that agreed percentage. If anything, for the sorts of reasons that are set out in the report, it should be increased.

One of the reasons to which I will refer very briefly is set out at page 7 of the report. It refers to the impact on the revenue side of local government of the drought as well as of the economic recession. Because many of the rural municipalities in Tasmania face delays in the collection of their rate revenue, they must bear an interest cost and the subsequent losses suffered. Many rural property owners have been severely hit by the drought and have been unable to make rate payments on time or only over a period.

Therefore, I simply draw attention to the report, ask for an explanation of the reason for the delay and point to the importance to the State of Tasmania and its local government bodies of the two aspects of the allocation; that is, the 3 .1977 per cent of the total funds available under the basic legislation, and the 2 per cent which goes directly to local government, which was first introduced by the former Government for the year 1980-81 and which was an action warmly applauded by local governments throughout Australia. It was certainly sorely needed. Local government is probably the area of government most limited in its capacity to increase its income and therefore is deserving of continued favourable consideration by the Commonwealth and State governments of this country.

Question resolved in the affirmative.