Greens Support A Transition From Stamp Duty

Today in deliberation over housing and property tax reform, Abigail reaffirmed the Greens' policy on transitioning from stamp duty.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (16:47): On behalf of The Greens I speak briefly to this motion. I will take this opportunity to explain how our policies are made. They are made by our members, where each member has an equal contribution and an equal say. We nut it out for a very long time before we change any aspect of our policies. Sometimes it takes years and years but, once it is in place, as MPs we are bound to support that policy. I think that makes us far more predictable than many other parties. When it comes to stamp duty, the Australian Greens economic justice policy supports the replacement of stamp duty with land taxes in circumstances that target land value and housing wealth, not housing consumption; in the context of broader taxation policies which preference progressive taxation over regressive taxation; and also in the context of our housing policy. It goes for pages and pages, but the nub of it is that we support the transition from stamp duty. Stamp duty is incredibly inefficient. The only good thing about it is that it is progressive. As inefficient as stamp duty is and given the impact it is having on housing affordability, it is long past time that we got rid of it.

From a revenue perspective, it is very useful to have a more stable revenue that comes in from an annual land or property tax than comes from stamp duty, which tends to be a much bumpier thing. When you look at what the purpose of taxes should be, either for raising revenue or for influencing behaviour, or as a policy lever, housing taxes do both and can be very useful income for the State. But it has to be done right. When we have a proposal like this—and I will come to the proposal from the Premier from when he was Treasurer in a moment—it depends on the details of the particular proposal as to whether it will positively impact affordability of housing and whether it ensures appropriate exemptions for those who are doing it tough. The last thing any of us wants to see is for a land or property tax to result in people not being able to live in their homes for reasons outside of their control.

The Hon. Mark Latham asked why this has not happened yet, and that is a very good question. But do you know why? It is because there are no Greens in government. Because in the ACT the Labor-Greens Government dealt with this a while ago. It has been our policy. Clearly, it is all to our credit. We dealt with this ages ago. The transition that was put in place there was done in a way to avoid the shock to the market we keep hearing so much about but also the shock to individuals. People were well informed going into this as to what expenses they were going to have in connection with a housing purchase down the track.

The Greens support the transition but we also know that it cannot be a blanket support. That is what brings me to the proposal we saw last year. Contrary to what the Minister said earlier, we were very vocal in our criticism of that particular proposal. I raised it with the then Treasurer during budget estimates, because I believe it was deeply flawed in many respects. The modelling on which the assertion that it would be revenue neutral within a certain time was based was flawed. I think they were perhaps massaging those numbers a little bit generously, which then causes concerns as to what amendments would get made in due course and how that might negatively impact both on individuals trying to buy a home and also those currently living in a place that might become subject to this. So we need to ensure that the proposal, if and when it comes back—and I do support the Hon. Daniel Mookhey's amendment asking for the proposal to come—

In my view it needs to go to a proper review. I do not think you can make a reform which has so many details, is so technical and is such a major departure from what we have done previously without having a parliamentary review into the proposal. So I would encourage the Government to welcome such a review. The end product of the proposal would then be far better than if it were just pushed through without that review. We need to ensure that housing is primarily a home, not a commodity. The Perrottet proposal did not strike the right balance between the needs and interests of individuals buying their home versus people who are buying a second or a third home and investors. We need to take a much closer look at that.

I encourage the Government to consider the concept of using a previous stamp duty amount that was paid on a purchase as a credit going forward for land tax, instead of the choice, which is why we are voting for the Opposition's amendment. I think the choice element in this motion is not something we could support. If we were to structure a transition where we are moving from stamp duty to land tax but the stamp duty amount that you have paid in the past is used as a credit going forward over the next however many decades in paying off land tax then we would have the entire housing stock being treated on the same basis. I think that would reach a better position from a revenue perspective as well as for predictability, not just for purchasers of these homes but also for the market generally in knowing what is going to happen down the track. With those comments, I thank the honourable member for bringing the motion, but I do have a problem with the choice aspect. I do not think that that is necessarily the best way to structure the transition from stamp duty to land tax, so we will be supporting the Opposition's amendment.

 

The full debate can be found in Hansard here.

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