FIRE SERVICES TAX LEVY GRAB

By now most people have received their council rates and noticed the additional charge of the new Fire Service Property Levy attached. The Napthine Government are promoting the FSPL as a simpler and fairer way to fund our fire services, but it has been clear since its introduction that operation of the FSPL exposes many sections of the Victorian community to the risk of unfairly paying more than they were under the previous scheme.

The Opposition has been clear in warning that these problems were present and since the FSPL was implemented on July 1 it has become evident that many people are now worse off.

There are ten things that need to be fixed with the FSPL:

  1. The removal of the Fire Service Levy has not reduced premiums, which have in fact risen by 55% over the past year.
  2. The FSL has not been removed from insurance premiums on a pro-rata basis according to amount of insurance coverage after 1 July 2013, leaving insurers feeling like they are paying twice. This means that insurers who play by the month are continuing to see an FSL payment being made for months after the changeover.
  3. In the period up to June 2014 the oversight of insurance premium levels or other matter(s) specified by the Minister may (but does not have to) be undertaken by the Essential Services Commission who may (but do not have to) provide a report to the Minister who may (but does not have to) publish the report.
  4. Use of AVPCC coding means that some properties, including not-for-profit community housing organisations and units (alone among residential-use investment properties) are classified as commercial operations and charged the commercial rate.
  5. The FSPL is chargeable to car parks and ATMs.
  6. Levy is collected by Councils not the State Revenue Office, reducing transparency, efficiency and accountability and placing an extra burden on Councils.
  7. The differential rates for MFB and CFA areas means that CFA regions are paying more.
  8. The funds raised through the FSPL are directed into consolidated revenue, not a dedicated fund for the CFA and MFB. Allocation of operation funding does not show up in the State Budget (as far as I can see).
  9. The Minister has absolute discretion which is not reviewable to set the rates for the variable component of the levy and as well as taking into account the funding requirements of the CFA and MFB the Minister may also look to “other matter the Minister considers is relevant to the proper determination of the levy rates.”
  10. There is no provision for any agency to oversight the implementation of the Fire Services Property Levy itself .

It is already evident that the fairness of the levy’s structure needs to be assessed. In the interests of transparency, the Napthine Government needs to disclose how much money the FSPL is raising, and from which groups and regions most of this money is being raised from.

The Opposition is calling upon the Government to review the implementation of the FSPL, including the imbalance between CFA and MFB, and to expand the powers of the Fire Services Levy Monitor to include oversight of the FSPL.