Jami-Lee Ross:rates freeze should go ahead

Very few households or businesses have managed to escape the financial impacts that we have experienced, and will continue to experience, off the back of Covid-19.

Billions of taxpayers’ money right now is being used to prop up wages and dampen the impacts. It’s not sustainable long term, but crucial right now.

The annual burden of rates levied by councils will soon also add to increased costs for everyone as councils around the country signal their continued plan to increase rates.

I recently proposed in Parliament that we should use legislation to step in to help households and businesses struggling with day-to-day costs by legislating for a rates freeze.

At no time in recent history have ratepayers needed more relief from annual rates increases than now.

Just as most other entities are going through the process of reassessing costs within their organisations, local authorities also need to review how they finance and debt-fund essential work.

Organisations like the Property Council and Taxpayers Union have made similar calls for rates freezes, backed up by a petition signed by thousands.

Local government is a creature of statute so the Parliament can lead the way on rates freezes.

Leaving it to councils to make these decisions ignores the legislative problem councils face where consultation requirements will be used as an easy excuse to box on with rates increases.

It will be unpalatable to mayors and councillors for Parliament to require a rates freeze. But equally it’s unlikely ratepayers will get the relief they deserve if we just rely on councils to make that decision for themselves.

Unfortunately, so far, the National Party joined the Government and used their numbers in the House to block a rates freeze proposal. Only myself and ACT’s David Seymour voted in favour.

Delivering a rates freeze is an easy, half page, legislative fix that would give certainty to ratepayers.

The Government likes to use urgency to rush through legislation. This is a good candidate.

Delivering a rates freeze should not be a difficult issue for MPs from across the aisle to unite on before the Parliament dissolves for the election.

Jami-Lee Ross, MP for Botany