STAMP DUTIES (OFF-THE-PLAN APARTMENTS) AMENDMENT BILL

Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:51): I rise to speak on the Stamp Duties (Off-the-plan Apartments) Amendment Bill 2014 and indicate that I will be the lead speaker for the opposition. As has been suggested by other speakers, the opposition will support this bill. It is not without criticism, and I have criticised this program before, not because it offers relief to those who are proposing to invest in off-the-plan apartments within the metropolitan area (within a more restricted area as applied up until 1 June but now we will be expanding it under this bill), but because it is not universal. It is not across South Australia. It is not even across the whole metropolitan area.

I have been critical of that in the past, and I have also been critical of the fact that it is curious to me that I think the biggest single beneficiary of this type of legislation is not just those who may avail themselves of some stamp duty relief as a concession within this geographical area, but the owner of property within this area (which is owned by the South Australian government) is significant, very significant. With the expansion of the boundary under this bill, it will be so even more, and I want to refer to that in a moment.

The revenue that is lost as a result of these types of initiatives is actually very much less than what had been budgeted for when it was announced several years ago and, again, that gives an opportunity for, I suppose, that saving to be better utilised to continue to make this benefit available.

As I point out, it is a stamp duty concession of which the state government is the biggest beneficiary.

The Stamp Duties Act 1923 itself essentially makes provision that certain instruments, namely, documents, are stampable and that a duty applies to them, worked out on the basis of the value of the consideration of the transaction in the document. It is something we have had for a very long time. It is a very significant income earner for the state, and it applies, as we used to say at law school, on just about everything except the letter to your mother. Anything in writing, pretty much, is stampable except certain exceptions, and certain concessions are allowed in a schedule of concessions under the legislation.

I should go back to say that a couple of years ago the government introduced this concessional stamp duty relief for off-the-plan apartments within the city plus the Bowden and Gilberton zones, if I can describe them as that. The Bowden zone covered a major government development, the Bowden Village on the old Clipsal site in the north-west precinct just off Port Road. The Gilberton site was earmarked already for a development which has limped along a bit since, but I am assured by various developers who have interests in it that it is going along pretty well for the sale of apartments there.

The government had decided not just to say, 'We want to support the vibrant city and increase population within the city square but we are going to add on two little bits that suit us.' Why? Because they want to fast-track the sales for a property at Gilberton and they certainly want to get some stimulus into what was otherwise a staggeringly slow cumbersome development of the government. By that stage, I think something like $100 million of taxpayers' money had been already spent on that site to prepare it for development, and the government was desperate to try to recover some money for it.

They provide these little initiatives, concessions as it were, I think to hasten their own sales.Remember that the government had got into the business itself of building apartments as a result of the nation-building money, the stimulus money that the government had showered us all with. Some of it had gone to some good projects, some of it had gone to some shocking projects like pink batts and school buildings and all sorts of things that were a disaster but, in relation to applying money to give the opportunity for people to build apartments, the government got into the apartmentbuilding business big time.

Where did they build them? They built them in the city of Adelaide. Unsurprisingly, in 2012, when it wants to tell the world that it is going to do this great new thing of giving a concessional advantage, guess what? It gives a big concessional advantage to itself—a very significant and I would suggest the single biggest owner of assets within the precinct that we are talking about. Having done that, they said this would be a stamp duty concession. It was capped, payable on up to a $500,000 apartment, and there were partial concessions over the next two years.

In October last year, the government announced the policy was to revitalise the inner metro area, allowing up to 18,500 new homes. The government announced that it would then extend the stamp duty relief for off-the-plan apartment sales to rezoned inner metropolitan areas. Again, this would offer a saving to the public. It was all pre-election. It was all the hype around how we were going to expand the boundary of this and now take it out to the area bordered by Cross Road, Portrush Road, Regency Road in the north, and essentially along Marion Road and Holbrooks Road in the west. That is quite a significant expansion.

It is a very big area, now from the state electorate of Bragg, Norwood, in the state seat of Adelaide, West Torrens—the Treasurer's electorate gets a big kick-along there—and the seats of Ashford and Unley. I will skip over the Treasurer's electorate and the benefit it has to his constituents, although he might have thought he was under a bit of pressure before the last election, so he might have needed to prop up his vote out there. In any event, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about what was being propped up in the seat of Ashford.

While I mention Anzac Highway, where development plans have been done and amended to provide for development, I got a report today under FOI in respect of the Wayville train station. It had a staggering number of people who were going to the Wayville train station in the last two years—a daily pickup of some 300 people a day. Can you believe it? We have just spent I do not know how many tens of millions of dollars on a new station for such a small number. I concede that it will probably increase a bit. There is always the show—you have to add this extra provision for the show. But let me say that this report, now it has finally been disclosed of course, tells me that what it is hoping to do is to have a major development down in the Ashford area on the Keswick site, which I actually think is a very good idea. There are lots of good transport initiatives right next to it—Anzac Highway, trains, trams, beautiful new stops—and you have proximity to the city, you have proximity to parks. It is a brilliant area to develop except that the federal government owns it, so unless it is actually going to become available for development for housing, that sort of infrastructure build down there is, frankly, a bit of a waste at this point.

Nevertheless, I detract from the importance of what was happening here. Prior to the election, the government wanted to say, 'Yes, we're still into vibrant cities. We're still into bringing people into the city, but now we're going to expand it around. We're now going to talk about providing that benefit to a whole lot of inner metro areas.' Guess where one of the other big property sites is? Of course, along Greenhill Road, Housing Trust—owned by the government. Then there is that magnificent Caroma site, which was bought under the former infrastructure minister Patrick Conlon.

We have very significant asset purchases by the government within the metropolitan area of the city square itself. They are big investors in this. They are the ones, of course, who are going to be the greatest beneficiaries of whatever stimulus comes from this initiative, so I am not under any illusion as to who is really the beneficiary here. I am just hopeful that those out in the real world who are investing their money in an attempt to have some benefit and provide stimulus to the general economy will at least get some benefit. We are not opposing it, but I point out who is actually getting the stamp duty relief in a huge lick.

The other thing is that the expiry date for this is 30 June, so we need to deal with this bill to be able to cover the ex gratia payments that the government has been giving to people, as I understand it, either as some benefit up or as a refund to enable them to continue to have the benefit of this. Obviously, the legislation needs to be dealt with. I am not sure whether it could have been dealt with by regulation or whether, in fact, the ex gratia payment that it is currently giving is under regulation. All I know is that obviously we were at least advised that it needs some legislative cover to provide for the legitimate relief that has been offered to those who have benefited under this scheme as of 30 June 2014—so, over the last four months.

Industry generally in the housing sector obviously welcomes something like this because it does mean that they have some chance to have some stimulus in the lower end of the market. It does not help those who are trying to build houses or rebuild or upgrade or sell property that is already developed, but at least in this small niche of under $500,000 apartments, as I say, it provides some relief.

Whilst the government has a 70:30 brownfield-greenfield development policy within its 30-year plan— and I do not have any objections to that—my biggest concern is that the government keeps saying they will support some greenfield in their 30-year plan and, next thing, when something like the proposal at Roseworthy comes along, they just want to crush it because it is politically expedient to do so in an election campaign. After stringing developers along for a couple of years, they just say, 'No, we don't need it; we've got 15 years' supply of available land for greenfield development, so go away. We're not interested in approving your proposal.'

The reality is that they do make these decisions and provide these incentives and you can bet your bottom dollar that, when they do, it is for their benefit directly as it is in this case and indirectly if they are able to stimulate other people, real people, to invest in these projects. Then they want to be able to get the land tax and the benefit of all the other costs of developing a dwelling and then living in it. Unlike previous governments which, since the Hon. David Tonkin's day, have protected the right to be able to live in your own house without paying land tax, the Treasurer's great new initiative for this last budget is to give us a backdoor land tax and give them a huge whack when it comes to their own home.

I think that is shameful, because the government was not even up-front prior to the election to allow for it, to actually tell the people of South Australia that it was going to tax people to live in their own home, which is a disgusting approach given the commitment the government says it has to South Australians. Not only that but with the cars that everyone is driving around, most people have not even got their renewal of registration yet. Wait until they get it and find the emergency services levy on that.

So the tsunami is coming on this and I am only thankful that our Leader of the Opposition has had the initiative to come into this parliament and say that, for all of the appeals, for all of the reviews that we are going to have to have on emergency services levy assessments—whether it is on aggregates or whether it is on the assessment or whether it is on the categories on which the emergency services levy is to apply—we must have a review process, an appeal process, different from going off to the Supreme Court at great cost, and be able to have an accessible and affordable review process, and he was instrumental in bringing that to the parliament.

The government finally agreed to take up the valuation review on that, and our leader has taken up the initiative to present to parliament that all of the reviews in respect of this area be able to have an expedient process of appeal, which they richly deserve, especially given the government's disgraceful approach in hitting the people.

Do not be fooled by this government who comes in here and gives some relief on this basis. It is like saying, 'We are going to give you a new asset or we are going to give you something that you can thank us for, and then we are going to rape and pillage you for the rest of your life on that asset.' Do not be fooled by this. It is a small relief, it is a start. We do not say no to some tax relief but, on its current form, it is inequitable in not applying to all South Australians. All South Australians should have the right to be able to acquire a property with some stamp duty relief, not just those chosen few who the government is trying to stimulate to come and buy one of their apartments.