Posted on 26. Aug, 2013 in News

The State Opposition today welcomed the Napthine Government’s backflip on its fire service property tax on community housing organisations, but now Labor is calling for more action to make it the ‘fairer and simpler’ levy that was promised.

Shadow Treasurer, Tim Pallas, said the Labor Opposition campaign to highlight the inequities of the Fire Services Property Levy (FSPL) had forced Treasurer Michael O’Brien to backflip and stop charging community housing organisations the commercial rate.

“Michael O’Brien’s handling of this issue has been appalling and he has even attempted to blame councils for charging the commercial rate when it is his own policy that forced councils to do so,” Mr Pallas said.

“Now it is time for Denis Napthine and Michael O’Brien to completely review the botched implementation of this tax as families and businesses are bearing the brunt of it.

“We have the ridiculous situation where a business is being charged an extra $20,000 just because they live on a different side of the street: how is this fairer and simpler?

“There are people whose FSPL payments are six times what they had been paying for the fire services levy with some of the hardest hit being self-funded retirees.”

Mr Pallas said there were a number of failings already highlighted by community complaints including residential investment units being charged at a commercial rate and the FSPL being chargeable to car parks and ATMs.

Mr Pallas said the removal of the FSL had not reduced insurance premiums, which have in fact risen up to 55% over the past year.

“The FSL has not been removed from premiums on a pro-rata basis according to the amount of insurance coverage after 1 July 2013, leaving insurers feeling like they are paying twice,” he said.

“The levy is collected by Councils, not the State Revenue Office, putting all the burden on local government and not the State Government who are accountable for this tax.

“The funds raised through the FSPL are directed into consolidated revenue, not a dedicated fund for the CFA and MFB.

“The Minister can set the rates for the levy but won’t guarantee that all funds raised will go directly into CFA and MFB budgets.

“The Napthine Government must give the Fire Services Levy (FSL) Monitor greater powers and have him hold an open and transparent public inquiry to allow Victorians to explain how hard they have been hit by the Napthine Government’s FSPL.

“The FSL Monitor needs to have his powers extended to be able to investigate problems with the FSPL and to make recommendations for improvement.

“The only way to do this is to hold a public inquiry where Victorians can have their concerns aired and this would allow the FSL Monitor to provide recommendations to the Government on how to improve the FSPL and make it ‘fairer and simpler’, just as the Government claimed it would be.”

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