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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5405

Senator IAN MACDONALD (12.56 p.m.) —When we were interrupted by Senator Gareth Evans, I was asking a question of the minister who was then involved. I am not quite sure who is involved now; Senator Collins obviously had little idea of what he was talking about. I hope that Senator Evans is back to deal with this matter. I was trying to raise the question of what impact the amendments, by addition of subclause (7) to clause 53, would have on local authorities around Australia. Senator Collins—who clearly demonstrated that he had no idea—was telling me that local authorities could not collect rate money by dealing with the land, as happens with every other Australian. Senator Collins was indicating that that would not have much effect anyway because there was not much money involved, again clearly demonstrating his ignorance of these matters.

  I hope Senator Evans appreciates that being able to recover money will have a major impact on local authority finances. Very often owners abandon land, walk away and there are huge amounts of rates owing. The only way out is to deal with the land. I was trying to get a sensible comment from the minister on how this will affect local governments in their ability to recover moneys owing. I emphasise that very often rates are owing because local authorities have actually provided services to land and the only way they can recover the money is through rates. If people refuse to pay them, their only recourse is to deal with the land.

  I wonder whether the minister could explain to me how this would happen. In the case of a body corporate, if the body corporate has no money and is sued, where does that leave the local authority? Do local authorities still have to provide services to those lands in the face of a refusal or an inability to pay the rates?