ACT government risks 'boring the people' with citizen's jury on insurance, Greens warn
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ACT government risks 'boring the people' with citizen's jury on insurance, Greens warn

Chief Minister Andrew Barr risks "boring the people of Canberra" if he pushes ahead with his idea of holding the city's first citizen's jury on the topic of compulsory third-party insurance, the Greens' Caroline Le Couteur says.

Calling on Mr Barr to find something more interesting, Ms Le Couteur said she suspected few people were passionately interested in insurance.

The Greens' Caroline Le Couteur says the government risks 'boring the people' with a citizen's jury on third-party insurance.

The Greens' Caroline Le Couteur says the government risks 'boring the people' with a citizen's jury on third-party insurance.Credit:Jay Cronan

She spoke as the ACT parliament's estimates committee tabled its report on Mr Barr's 2017-18 budget.

Among 159 recommendations, the cross-party committee (two Labor, two Liberal, one Green) asked the government to consult people on topics for its planned citizen's jury to find a topic that was "interesting and meaningful to the community" and good value, given it would cost $2.8 million.

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Kangaroos in the government's long-running fertility trial in Weston Park: The estimates committee says the government should review whether the trial is fiscally responsible.

Kangaroos in the government's long-running fertility trial in Weston Park: The estimates committee says the government should review whether the trial is fiscally responsible.Credit:Rohan Thomson

Mr Barr told the estimates hearings that he wanted to move beyond town-hall meetings, was also looking at recruiting as many as 10,000 representative citizens, spread evenly across the city, which the government could use for consulting "on an opt-in basis".

The committee called on the government to release detail about the light rail network, including the length of each stage, the timetable for the rollout, and the construction and operating costs for each stage.

It said the government should postpone its new $30,000 development tax until it has done "urgent modelling" of the impact on urban infill, housing affordability and sustainability.

The tax is $30,000 per unit for developers who build more homes on a single residential block.

The property industry, which is strongly opposed, says it will bring townhouse development around shopping centres to a halt.

Ms Le Couteur said there had been 127 applications for more units on a residential lease in the five years before the measure was announced in the June budget, and 147 applications in the three weeks between the budget and July 1 when it took effect.

The government should not make such a major tax changes without modelling the impacts and without consulting, Ms Le Couteur said, worried it would discourage people from selling their home and downsizing to a townhouse in their suburb.

The estimates committee called on the government to provide a "detailed rationale" for the next tax by September 21.

And it called for a review of the first five years of tax reform.

The committee said it was worried that some homeowners were being caught by the shift from stamp duty to rates, paying full stamp duty when they bought their house before cuts to stamp duty began, and now paying higher rates every year.

The government should analyse the impact on homeowners in "this predicament", the scale of the problem and "possible solutions to preserve equity in the tax burden".

The inquiry called on the government to stick to its plan for a return to surplus in the 2018 budget, pointing to doubts from independent economic advisers Pegasus, which highlighted "problematic" assumptions and the need to boost revenue significantly to achieve a surplus.

The committee said it was also concerned about the differences between Mr Barr's upbeat assessment of the economy, and doubts from Pegasus about the growth, job and wages figures in the budget.

Among other recommendations, the estimates committee called for:

  • Twice yearly updates on Kingston Arts Precinct progress.
  • A review of bushfire risk at the new West Belconnen suburb of Ginninderry.
  • A review of the kangaroo contraceptive trial to assess whether it was contributing to population control and was "fiscally responsible". The trial has cost $612,000, with 135 kangaroos treated by January, and 10 given a placebo.
  • Data on the health of all trees at the arboretum in annual reports.
  • A separate budget line for sportsground maintenance, water and lighting.
  • Collection of data on offences committed by people on bail or parole.
  • Immediate action on the shortage of beds for female prisoners.
  • Information on the new procedures for providing portable toilets at fire sites.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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