Leader of the Liberal Party
Leader of the Opposition

Portfolio Speeches

Fire services levy: reform

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) -- My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer update the house on the implementation of the fire services property levy, which is a major economic reform initiated by this coalition government?

Mr O'BRIEN (Treasurer) -- I thank the member for Mornington for his question and his interest in economic reform. All Victorians benefit from our world-class fire services. They protect this state and its people 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our fire services deserve fair and proper funding. A key finding of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was that the current model of funding our fire services, which is a levy charged on insurance premiums for building and contents insurance, is flawed, unfair and in need of reform.

The royal commission echoed what Victorians have been saying for decades.

Under the current system those who choose not to insure or who underinsure or self-insure pay no or an inadequate contribution towards funding our fire services. People or businesses who properly insure are forced to overpay to make up the difference. That is unfair. We have accepted the royal commission's recommendation, and we are moving, from 1 July this year, to a property-based levy service to make sure our fire services are properly funded. This is major tax reform. This will see the abolition not just of the levy on insurance premiums but the stamp duty on the levy and the GST on the stamp duty on the levy. We had a tax on a tax on a levy on a premium. We are getting rid of the tax and the tax and the levy. This will save Victorians over $80 million a year.

Also, under the system we inherited there were no concessions for pensioners or war veterans. We are accepting the recommendation of the royal commission and introducing a concession for 400 000 Victorians.

Pensioners and war veterans will, under the coalition, get a concession for the very first time, a concession of $50. As a result of these reforms the average household in a Country Fire Authority area can expect to go from paying $262 a year to $142 a year -- a $120-a-year saving. The average household in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade area will go from paying $193 a year under Labor's system to $143 a year under us, being $50 a year better off.

This has been welcomed. The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) said:

  • We congratulate the government on taking on one of the toughest reforms in politics ...

  • The VFF has spent the past 15 years arguing past governments to deliver this reform, using a fair and equitable model. We thank the Napthine government for stepping up to the mark ...

VCOSS, the Victorian Council of Social Service, said:

  • The introduction of the fire services levy is a step forward for equity, as it no longer penalises people who purchase property insurance on the family home ...

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) said:

  • COTA welcomes the state government's announcement today on the arrangements for the new fire services property levy.

  • We also welcome the concession announced by the government as this recognises the need for additional support for pensioners and veterans.

The Australian Industry Group also supports it. When you have the VFF, VCOSS, the Council on the Ageing and the Australian Industry Group all supporting it, who would be opposed? One commentator feared 'asset-rich but income-poor property owners could be hit hard'. It is extraordinary to see the member for Tarneit standing up for the asset rich!

Ms Green -- On a point of order, Speaker, the Treasurer is misleading the house because the facts are -- --

The SPEAKER -- Order! That is not a point of order.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER -- Order! It is not a point of order, and the Treasurer has already sat down. Everybody will be absolutely delighted to know that that was the last question.

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Michael O'Brien MP

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