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Non-payment of Emergency Services Levy

Radio News Broadcast

Ross Womersley, Director, SACOSS (5AA 11.07-11.15) Non-payment of Emergency Services Levy

(Byner: ... the outstanding non-payment of $8 million plus for the Emergency Services Levy suggests an inherent problem – if there are hardship issues upping the ante and charging more only makes the problem worse. It’s no good lecturing the public how every cent goes to emergency services when everybody knows that Treasury have avoided paying $19 million a year for which we are still taxed. The Government can now update its data faster while departments generally are late paying their bills by 90 days or more. Government doesn’t agree – you want to give me some other stats do you? – I’ve got some news for you guys, ring me whenever you like. The Government doesn’t know why these ESL bills are unsettled. It could be protestors who say I’m not going to pay this, it could be farmers whose income is inconsistent or just people who don’t have the money but with five year valuations on the way these costs are set to increase above the normal annual increases ... here is the interesting thing – the Weatherill Government seem to be of the view that property values are an indicator of the capacity to pay. That can’t be right because many could not qualify for loans today if they borrowed on today’s values and while we waste millions paying suspended Families SA workers or paying people over $100,000 a year because they’re superfluous to need but they don’t do anything we have a Sheriff of Nottingham collecting notional wealth ... Ross Womersley, why do you suspect there’s over $8 million plus outstanding for the ESL?) Well, it’s a perplexing thing ... it does seem like a very large amount and I guess one of my concerns is how many of those people are either in that category of maybe being protestors, that have said no we simply don’t want to pay and of course there’s been a political stoush about the ESL from the outset. But the other question is are there a group of people in the midst of there that simply are in a position where for one reason or another they don’t have the means to pay and therefore things like the imposition of fines, adding another fine and another cost to the bill, isn’t going to be helpful in those instances. (Byner: ... what do you think the Government ought to do?) I think that probably one of the things we ought to do is have a very close look at exactly who it is that currently isn’t paying their bill and try and make some sense of how that is happening, why it’s happening and what the issues are and then we can write a bit of a recipe about what needs to be done.

John Darley, Xenophon Team (5AA 11.11-11.15) Non-payment of Emergency Services Levy

(Byner: ... John Darley ... you’ve no doubt got some information for us ...) I think one of the other reasons there could be so many people that haven’t paid would be the archaic billing system that emergency services send out where you get one bill and you have to remember you pay the first month and then you’ve got to remember to pay the second, third and fourth month and it wouldn’t be the first time people forget about those. (Byner: ... I’ll do a comparison – council rates quarterly you get a bill ... are you saying that Revenue SA can’t bill quarterly?) Well, they put in this archaic system where they only send one bill and they rely on the rate payer to remember to pay every other second, third and fourth ... (Byner: if the rate payer is late are they automatically pinged with a late fee?) Absolutely.

Back to Ross Womersley

(Byner: ... it looks as if almost people are being lured into error. Would you not say that’s right?) Well, potentially ... this is exactly the inquiry that needs to take place and we need to understand it. We do know that there’s a whole lot of people who are on very low incomes who wouldn’t be subject to the ESL at this point in time and ... the Government has maintained those concessions and intends to, as far as I understand it, maintain them into the future but there is now this question about well who are these other payers that aren’t paying and exactly what is it leading them into those circumstances.

Back to John Darley

(Byner: ... so the deal is be very careful when you get your bill because ... you can either pay the full amount so that you don’t have to re-bill or if you get it wrong by a couple of days they hit you.) Exactly, you know this crowd ought to bring themselves into the 20th century ... (Byner: ... you’re not afraid to talk to these people, what do they say when you suggest this?) Well they just don’t listen. (Byner: ... what, they don’t care?) They don’t care or ... they’ve got this system that was introduced in 1998 and it was good enough then and they say it’s good enough in 2017 ... (Byner: ...if we get five year rolling valuations what’s that going to do to the ESL?) Nothing, because the valuations have no impact on the total ESL paid, the valuation’s only used to apportion the budget that’s allocated to ESL the same for water and sewer rates, same for council rates. What it will do ... it has a direct impact on land tax and those people will be belted. In fact I have a briefing to someone from Valuation today to explain to me what they’re doing but I think it’s ... I think the Government has been misled on this issue. (Byner: ... why would they go back to a system that was abandoned in 1979?) ... they’ve got no idea that’s why. (Byner: ...alright ... thank you ... the Government are very quick to hit you hard if you’re a day, a week, two weeks, three weeks late ... they’ve got this system where under law if they’re late paying you as a supplier ... you can actually apply interest on your bill but guess what few people are doing it because they are worried that if they do – here is the nudge nudge wink wink – they won’t get business again or their contracts will be minimised as, if you like, punishment for them daring to charge interest which they lawfully can ... my information is that there are a number of people who have inadvertently been late paying the levy but the Government just want the money ... it’s the kind of Sherwood Forrest thing where you’ve got land, you must be wealthy.)