Govt goes to water on land tax as rebels threaten to cross floor

EXCLUSIVE | The Marshall Government has shifted ground on land tax for the third time since June, in a move that retains its contentious aggregation crackdown but will be sold as a peace deal with the state’s Property Council – but it may not be enough to stop its own backbenchers crossing the floor in protest.

Oct 28, 2019, updated Oct 28, 2019
Treasurer Rob Lucas. Photo: Kelly Barnes / AAP

Treasurer Rob Lucas. Photo: Kelly Barnes / AAP

InDaily understands Treasurer Rob Lucas is taking a new compromise to the Liberal party-room tonight after it was waved through by cabinet this morning.

The changes will extend previous changes to the threshold and rates at which land tax is levied and provide for a review of the legislation in 2023 – after the next state election.

Sources have confirmed Lucas is now promoting a land tax Bill that will add a new 2 per cent tier levied on property portfolios worth between $1.098 million and $1.6 million.

This is a shift from the Bill introduced to parliament last week, which levied the top rate of tax of 2.4 per cent on all property holdings above $1.098 million.

It’s understood the change will be phased in over two years, with the top rate to kick in at $1.35 million from next year, rising to $1.6 million in 2022.

Lucas did not return calls today.

Asked whether Premier Steven Marshall planned to bring new land tax legislation changes to tonight’s party-room meeting, a spokeswoman responded that the party-room “always discusses the government’s agenda, and land tax, given it is being debated this week will be a topic of discussion”.

However, it remains to be seen whether the changes will win the support of dissidents within the Liberal Party.

InDaily understands at least two backbenchers – former party president Steve Murray and fellow right-winger Dan Cregan – have already given notice that they will “reserve their right” – meaning they can cross the floor and vote against the Bill in parliament.

It’s understood this will not change in tonight’s meeting, but neither commented to InDaily today.

Sources say the newest round of changes are set to be presented as a “peace deal” with the Property Council, which has been among the strongest agitators in the campaign against the Government’s land tax changes.

However, Property Council executive director Daniel Gannon, who did not return calls this afternoon, may have a tough time explaining the about-face to stakeholders, given he has consistently argued that the organisation would not support any iteration of land tax reform that contains the aggregation crackdown – a measure worth $86 million a year to Treasury’s coffers.

However, he has softened his rhetoric in recent days, telling subscribers to the council’s weekly ‘Land Tax Alert’ bulletin that “it is timely to remind our politicians and policy-makers of the need for a fair, sensible and measured outcome”.

“Unless there is a significant compromise that would benefit small and big property owners – that potentially includes stretching out thresholds and lowering rates – then this Bill should be defeated,” he wrote this week.

It’s understood a host of other industry groups who have participated in the campaign against the aggregation changes have not been consulted about the latest compromise.

UDIA boss Pat Gerace told InDaily he was “concerned” that the Urban Development body had not been informed about the new proposed changes, which he said “do not address key concerns we raised in our submission”.

Lucas first flagged the aggregation changes in his June budget. He presented a watered-down version lowering the top rate to 2.4 per cent in September, making further minor amendments after a brief consultation earlier this month.

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