UPPER Hunter farmers are concerned about high rates caused by increases to the Emergency Services Levy and a looming property tax, which is currently being negotiated in Parliament.
NSW Farmers meet the candidates forum attendee Peter Comonsole described farming as, “millions of dollars invested in land capital that earns very vulnerable annual income.”
“Respecting that, for about the last 40 years, nearly every political party and every politician in this state has upheld the exemption of farmland from property taxes, particularly land tax and the charging of stamp duty upon the transfer of land between generations,” said Peter.
At the moment, the government is toying with the idea of a property tax, which will come to fall on farmland on annual index death duties. My question is simple and requires a yes or no answer,” he said.
If you win, will you work to uphold the exemption of farmland from property taxes?
David Layzell: “Yes. There’s a discussion paper out at the moment, discussing how can we get young farmers onto the land. What we’re talking about is instead of paying the stamp duty upfront, people can choose to do that over an annual rate. That’s the idea that’s been thrown about and if people have issues about that idea, please let me know and I’ll send that through to the treasurer because at this moment it’s just an idea. There’s no way we would ever allow that tax to applied to inter-generational farmland so I can assure you that is no way on the cards. It comes from a good place but there may be problems about it. It’s something I’ve already talked to the treasurer about, making sure that intergenerational transfer is not taxed. I talked to him about where this came from and he was explaining how it’s actually about making it easier for young farmers to get onto the land, to let them lay if off over a period of time instead of an upfront fee. In my mind it’s coming from a good place, it may be a policy we need to have a look at more closely.”
Dale McNamara: “This is just another way to punish the farmers and prevent people from wanting to be farmers. People have got inherited properties, how hard is it, how many people have left the farming industry to go to the mines or other industries because they can’t make on farming. We would fight against this tax and let’s just leave the farmer alone. It’s hard enough as a farmer, I certainly have enough land on the Hunter River and I’m sure wouldn’t I be able to make enough money on my farm, so extra taxes for the people who are farmers, it would be a nightmare.”
Sue Abbott: “Yes.”
Jeff Drayton: “Yes, we absolutely don’t support the land tax. “It’s just another cost to farmers.”
Steve Reynolds: “Yes.”
Kirsty O’Connell: “Not only will I support the exemption, I’ll also be calling for incentives for diversification of growth in the agricultural sector. I will also be pushing the government hard to take action on climate change so that we aren’t slugged as agricultural producers on exports, by initiatives such as we’ve recently seen from the EU. If we can take action there and prevent additional taxes being put on those valuable agricultural exports that we are producing, I think that’s not only preventing this negative step from the government but its quite a step forward for farmers. So that’s a yes.”
Tracy Norman: “I’d have to declare an interest, but if I was able to vote on something then I would definitely support the exemption.”
Archie Lea: “Yes. Farmers are the backbone of Australia, we need more farmers and looking at your farmer apprenticeship scheme, I approve of it wholeheartedly.”
Sue Gilroy: “Yes, we would of course support the exemption. We’re actually opposing it in Parliament as we speak.”
Despite the rate cap, Council rates for farmers are increasing at a faster rate than for residential ratepayers. This is in part, due to increasing costs of service delivery but also an increase to the Emergency Services Levy.
If elected, what would your position be on who should pay the levy, government, or ratepayers?
Kirsty O’Connell: “Given the significant commitment that most of the farmers I know make to voluntary emergency services, my position is that the government should be paying that, not rural ratepayers.”
Archie Lea: “As ratepayers, you pay the rates and you pay taxes. Why should the farmers pay double with rates or taxes? In that respect I believe in subsidies for the farmers.”
Sue Abbott: “With the emergency services levy, I think the government should be paying that, it’s too costly and it definitely should be taken over.”
Dale McNamara: “I think emergency services should be funded by the government. Again, this is another hit to the farmer. Everyone thinks if you’ve got farming land, you’ve got a lot of cash in the bank, well I know quite a few farmers and there’s not a lot of cash in the bank. There’s plenty of where for that cash to go, in sprays, fertilisers, machinery and if they have a bad season, guess what? They lose a lot.”
David Layzell: “I do agree the emergency services levy is an impost and I think we can restructure that. I’m not 100 percent across how it has come to where it is now but as an MP, if elected, I would be committing to have a look at that emergency services levy and see what we can do about moving it onto the State Government to pay. Emergency services are a really important part of our community in keeping us safe, so we need to continue finding it in a good way.”
Jeff Drayton: “The State Government should be paying it, I would be concerned if anyone had a different view frankly.”
Sue Gilroy: “Ditto.”
Steve Reynolds: “Yes the same, ditto, I totally agree.”
Tracy Norman: “It’s gone up as well, and for very good reason because they have increased protection for workers compensation. I really do support that however, it’s an impost on Council and therefore ratepayers, which is just wrong. The government should be paying it in the first place. We did have a scheme that went through insurance companies and it spread a lot more, so maybe that’s the answer, not just putting it back to State Government but looking at it through insurance and spreading the risk.”
For more information on where candidates stand: Voting 101: Upper Hunter by-election.