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Land Tax

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:47): My question is to the Treasurer regarding land tax. In The Advertiser on 15 October, the Treasurer indicated that the South Australian economy was doing well, reporting that 887 First Home Owner Grants were paid out in the first three months of this financial year.

1. Can the Treasurer advise whether purchase contracts for these properties were signed before or after the state budget, and were they for established homes or new house and land packages? In which case, they could be 15 to 18 months old.

2. Can the Treasurer also offer his opinion regarding the recent ANZ/Property Council survey on the property sector, and whether he expects confidence to fall in light of the government's proposed changes to land tax?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for the question. Mr President, if I could address the second question first, given I have made a public comment in relation to the Property Council survey. It's hardly surprising that the Property Council asked its own members, having conducted a raving campaign for the last three months against the land tax, and indicating the whole world is going to end as we know it today. When they asked their own members whether or not they have any confidence in the state's future, it was hardly surprising, I think, to anybody that a significant number of them said that they didn't.

I think a better indication is some of the independent surveys that organisations and groups like the National Australia Bank, in their monthly business survey, when they actually survey, each month, a range of industry sectors and business groups, not just members of the Property Council. They do that on a monthly basis and issue their potential figures on a monthly basis.

Their most recent survey to date, at September, indicated that business confidence in South Australia and New South Wales remains unchanged, whilst confidence in three of the other states—Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania—has actually declined on that particular measure. As I said, that particular survey is a measure of a number of industry sectors and that mirrors some other recent surveys in relation to broader industry assessment of business confidence and business conditions.

In relation to a number of the other reports, as I said, it's hardly surprising that members of the Property Council and their supporters, who are vigorous opponents of the government's land tax reform package, are indicating that the property market is haemorrhaging and suffering significant problems, and no-one is saying they want to invest because everyone is going to flee South Australia and invest elsewhere.

Again, I refer to recent national surveys, both for the residential property market and the commercial property market. I have referred previously to the assessment by Colliers in relation to the commercial property market. I have referred to the public statements of one of the big property investment firms, Quintessential Equity, in terms of their bullishness about the Adelaide property market.

But in more recent times, in the last week for example, the national valuing firm, Herron Todd White, said that Adelaide's residential property market is a rising star and outperforming all other mainland capital cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, in terms of stability. Now, Adelaide will never have the peaks and troughs of Sydney or Melbourne. These are people interstate who are looking with dispassionate eyes at the commercial property market and, in this case, the residential property market, who don't share the views of the Property Council and the other opponents of the government's land tax reform regime.

Particularly those in commercial property are saying that a combination of the significant reduction of the top rate of land tax from 3.7 down to 2.4 also combines with two other factors. One is the removal of stamp duty on commercial property transactions but, thirdly, the optimistic future they see in terms of shipbuilding, defence, the national space agency in relation to investments, as painting a very positive prospect of the market for commercial property investment by people from other states in South Australia and in Adelaide, in particular, in relation to commercial property investments.

As I said, this particular assessment by Herron Todd White of the residential property market mirrors other assessments as well in the national media in relation to South Australia. So I acknowledge that the Property Council, and they asked their own members, believes that the world is ending and that everyone is going to flee South Australia and sell up all their property and move interstate, albeit of course interstate where the same rules in relation to aggregation apply and have applied for decades in all of those Eastern States markets. The assessment that these independent groups have made are in stark contrast to the overly alarmist scare campaigns of the Property Council and some of the key others who have supported the Property Council's concerns over the last three months of the campaign.

In relation to the specific questions of the home owners' grants, they are just one of the range of what we believe are optimistic signs in terms of South Australia's future. I can take the detail of that. It is clear that since about 2014, the first home owner grants in South Australia are applied to new builds as opposed to existing builds, so that's that part of the question. In relation to the timing of contracts, etc., I can take that question on notice and bring back a reply.

The only other point I would make is in relation to the member's original statement in his question, which was the government's view of the state's economy. All I can say is that we accept that our unemployment rate is too high in South Australia and it remains a challenge, but I again cite Monday's report from Deloitte, who summarise as follows: South Australia is 'surfing the strongest lift in the willingness to work that Australia has seen in some years'. The current high unemployment rate is the 'gap between two good news trends'.

Overall job growth remains pretty solid, but it has been overtaken by the increased willingness to remain in work by those aged 55 and over…Although that combination has seen unemployment lift, it's better understood as the fastest increase in the State's workforce since the mid 1980s, and one that has returned the State's participation rate to the best recorded since the global financial crisis (and within a whisker of being the best recorded in many decades).