ADJOURNMENT DEBATE ON RURAL RATES

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Local Government and concerns the gross inequity endured by rural and regional ratepayers.

The current property tax system, especially as it affects rural and regional ratepayers, is deeply flawed and discriminatory. Rural townspeople and farmers alike face considerable injustice compared to their metropolitan cousins. The system punishes those with assets but ignores income levels, it values land on factors such as future development and aesthetics but not profitability and it consequently penalises property owners outside the tram tracks.

The 2018 report entitled Inquiry into the Sustainability and Operational Challenges of Victoria’s Rural and Regional Councils noted that a Stonnington council resident in Toorak pays $962 in rates on an $800 000 property, while a resident in Donald in the Buloke shire in my region would pay a whopping $6990 in rates for the same $800 000 property. At the same time, Stonnington council collects nearly twice the amount in animal registration fees and parking fines as Buloke does in rates. This $22 million windfall, courtesy of dogs and fines, in Stonington is virtually Buloke’s entire projected revenue for 2019–20.

But guess what? Stonnington only needs to spend about $5 million on road maintenance on its 260 kilometres of roads, while poor old Buloke has to spend $8 million—and that is probably wildly insufficient—along 1100 kilometres of sealed, 650 kilometres of gravel and 3800 kilometres of earth roads across the entire shire. A total of 5550 kilometres of road that equates to just $1400 per kilometre, compared with Stonnington’s ability to spend $19 230 per kilometre on their road spend.

Not only are rural townspeople victims of this inequity but also farmers, who have seen a 52 per cent increase in some cases in property valuations and huge consequential rate increases. These state government-imposed annual valuations create huge rate imposts at a time when farmers are particularly doing it tough for various reasons.

The Local Government Act 1989 also limits councils in their ability to widen the differential rate. So I call on the minister to outline what he is going to do to end this unfair and discriminatory country versus city system of property taxing.

6 March 2019