Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, it is NAIDOC Week 2020, and the theme of this year's NAIDOC Week is 'Always Was, Always Will Be' Aboriginal land. It is important, if we are going to have a matter of public importance debate here today, that we recognise we are standing on the land of the palawa pakana people. It was never ceded. That is the truth that this parliament needs to understand and work towards resolving.
It galls me that at the start of NAIDOC Week we are having a debate about land tax, which has a point I have yet to discern from Mr O'Byrne. We are on Aboriginal land. There has not been true reconciliation. Land returns have stalled. There has been no significant return of lands for almost 20 years. We are no further advanced on negotiating a treaty with the first Tasmanians. In too many parts of this island and this country we still celebrate 26 January, which is a day regarded by Aboriginal people as invasion day, and rightly so. We still do not have dedicated seats in the Tasmanian Parliament. As a member of the inquiry that was established to look at the House of Assembly restoration bill, I know you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would support dedicated seats in the Tasmanian Parliament for the palawa pakana people. I simply reinforce to the House that it was a unanimous tripartisan recommendation to the parliament that we work towards dedicated seats for Tasmanian Aboriginal people. It would be a start.
It might refine our thinking a little so that when it is NAIDOC Week we have a debate in this place about how far we have yet to go towards true reconciliation - the steps we need to take, the truths we need to hear, the land we need to give back, the special dates we need to change.
This always was and always will be Aboriginal land. The Parliament of Tasmania should permanently fly the Aboriginal flag. I note that it is up this week, but surely the Tasmanian Parliament should acknowledge that it needs to raise the flag and keep it up.
On the question of land tax, it reminds me of growing up on Minjerribah/Stradbroke Island, home of the Quandamooka people, where the locals were priced out of the island because land values went up so far and so fast that low-income people just could not afford to stay on the island.
We have to be very careful here in Tasmania because we are not a wealthy state and for many Tasmanians their wealth is in their shack. We recognise that this is the system we have and the land tax rates that have been set and applied this year are what are in place, but if the Government can provide relief to small businesses for land tax, why can't there be some gesture of relief to property owners?
I will read into the Hansard some correspondence from my constituent, Mr Appleby of Sandy Bay, who writes:
I am writing this letter in the fervent hope that residential landlords might be spared the manifestly excessive increase in land tax for the 2020-21 financial year and I wish to add my voice to others who have already raised this issue.
Land values have been rising consistently in Tasmania for a number of years and it would appear that I and many others have now been catapulted into the highest land tax bracket.
Due to the highly regressive nature of the land tax table, this has caused a catastrophic increase in my land tax assessment, which has risen by 46 per cent this year after a 25 per cent increase last year. This constitutes a significant financial impost which will cause me and others considerable hardship at this very trying time.
This comes at a time when residential leases have been temporarily invalidated by emergency measures imposed by the state Government. This means that -
1. I am unable to increase rents.
2. I am unable to evict tenants, even when they refuse to pay their rent.
3. Any tenant can refuse to pay rent, even if not affected financially by the pandemic.
I am encouraged to negotiate with tenants for lower rents where necessary. I have negotiated lower rent with one tenant and renewed a lease with another at the same rate, plus I am already facing a significantly reduced income for this financial year. This is despite my costs, rates, land tax, water rates and insurance, to name a few, increasing significantly.
I am a fully self-funded retiree, relying on two streams of income. These are shares and property rentals. This has resulted in a significant reduction to my income. I would also like to point out that I have received not one cent of assistance from the federal government,
Ms O'Connor, I fervently hope you will give my financial situation and that of others in a similar position due consideration and lobby the Government to support the reversal deferment of the land tax increases for the 2020-21 financial year and lobby to revise the structure of the land tax rates to reflect the increased land values which now apply in Tasmania.
Of course, like many members in this place, that is only one piece of correspondence I have received from a constituent in relation to their shock when they opened their land tax bill this year.
I simply urge the Premier and Treasurer to consider whether there is any relief that can be provided to land tax bills in this year, because all across the community people are suffering. People have been dealt financial impacts and government should be able to adjust its policy somehow in order to provide a measure of assistance.