Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:31 :12 ): I take this opportunity, in the limited time I have available to me, to make some further comments about the government’s increase in the emergency services levy. These comments are in addition to those I made here in parliament back in June and in August, but over recent several weeks and several weeks still to come real people in the real world are actually getting their bills. People who may not have really grasped what the government has been doing to them when the budget was announced are now starting to really fully understand.
I think it was a very sneaky process that the government went through to increase the emergency services levy to households and, in fact, to all property owners across the state. They did that by removing discounts that had been in place for many years, and they are doing it because the government is short of money. The government is using rhetoric, trying to blame it on the federal government budget, but that is clearly nonsense, because in the last financial year alone, our state government spent $1.2 billion over and above what it planned to spend—a $1.2 billion deficit in one year—and that is on top of the fact that the government has actually run deficits six out of the last seven budgets. Nobody believes this nonsense about having to do it because of any federal government budget. The state government is having to do it because of its own mismanagement: it overspent $1.2 billion in one year, the last financial year. That is the reason the government has to take these sorts of measures.
I am particularly concerned about the sneaky way that the emergency services levy has been rolled out by the government. Before the last election in March, the government said categorically that it would not introduce any form of land tax, but this is a form of land tax. This is a tax on property ownership. It is an increase in an existing tax, using the instrument of removing the discounts that previously existed. So if you own property, you are paying more tax. It is a broken promise by the government: it is a land tax.
Very unfortunately, this affects householders. As we know, the cost of living is rising rapidly. Government charges and taxes in this state are higher than anywhere else. The cost of water and the cost of electricity are all going up way more than CPI has over the last 12 months. At a time when householders can least afford it, the government is doing this to them.
It is also a tax on business. It is a tax on employment. Every single business in the state is being taxed more by this ESL. If it is a business that works from home, they get an extra emergency services levy hit. If it is a business that works from owned premises, it gets an extra emergency services levy hit. If it is a business that works from rented premises, it gets an extra emergency services levy hit, because in commercial tenancies the tenants will receive, through the outgoings, this emergency services levy directly from their landlord. It is inescapable for small business, so it is also a tax on small business and employment.
Worst of all, the increase in the emergency services levy contributes not one extra cent to the emergency services sector. Mums, dads, young people, old people going about their business, whatever they might do day to day, week to week or month to month, would get their bill, and they would be quite within their rights to see an increase in the emergency services levy—a gigantic increase from last year—and think, ‘I guess it is going to the emergency services sector.’ It is not. There is not one additional cent from the increase in the emergency services levy that goes to the emergency services sector.
If we just step away from the financial harm that this is doing to our society, this is actually doing dreadful harm to our emergency services sector, because people out there think that they are getting lots more money. If a household’s bill goes up double, they are quite within their rights to assume that the emergency services sector is getting double the money that they had last time, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Emergency services workers are also having to face a community who now think that they are getting extra money and who think that they are well funded. This is a very sneaky way to introduce a land tax that does not help the sector whose name is on the levy.