Landscape South Australia Bill
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I rise to indicate my position on the raft of amendments that have been moved on this matter. There have been a number of amendments moved by the opposition, SA-Best and the Greens to address the issue of councils collecting the landscape levy. The Local Government Association have lobbied me, and I imagine they have lobbied other parties as well, to have this provision removed or altered.
I understand their position is that because this is a state government tax then it should be the state government that should collect it rather than farming off the responsibility to local government. I would agree with this if the state government had a mechanism to collect the levy; however, in my opinion and experience, local government are by far the most efficient and cost-effective mechanism to collect these levies.
Amendments have been filed that suggest that RevenueSA should be charged with the task of collecting the levies. I was involved in the development and implementation of RevenueSA's revenue collection system and I know how complex it is. The system is simply not designed to be able to collect the levies due to a number of reasons. RevenueSA's system works on the basis of issuing accounts based on ownerships. This means that if you own five properties then you will receive one account with all properties on it.
I see this being problematic because at the moment there is only one multiple that needs to apply to calculate the emergency services levy; however, the multiplier to determine the landscape levy may differ from region to region. The system is not set up to cope with this and I expect it will be costly and time consuming to change the system to be able to manage this.
The Commissioner of State Taxation, as the head of RevenueSA, would be charged with the responsibility to change the system or collect the levy if the Hon. Frank Pangallo's amendments are successful, and I wonder if the Hon. Frank Pangallo, or any others, have consulted with her to find out what tasking her with this responsibility would mean and whether it is possible.
I want to put on the record that I am wholeheartedly in support of the Local Government Association's position that they should not be lumped with a debt if ratepayers refuse to pay their levies. I understand that the boards will ask councils to collect a certain amount of money, say $3 million. Councils have to give the boards $3 million regardless of whether they collect this money from ratepayers or not. This results in councils being out of pocket if not all ratepayers pay their levy, and they are faced with the choice of either writing the debt off or chasing the ratepayer for payment.
The Local Government Association did provide me with details of how much it costs councils to chase these debts. I do not recall at the moment what it is, but I remember thinking at the time that it was an extraordinary amount each year and most likely was more than what they were seeking to recover. In any case, I do not believe that councils should be out of pocket because of the landscape levy, and I believe this is the position of the minister and the government too.
Because of the above, I am supportive of the Hon. Frank Pangallo's set 1 amendments. However, I understand he will not be moving these. If he does not, then I will not be supporting any of these alternatives and would look to the government to address this issue between the houses.