Baillieu to move quickly on stamp duty, public transport reforms

Victorian Liberal leader Ted Baillieu has now officially taken power, after John Brumby conceded defeat yesterday afternoon, ending an 11 year run for the Labor Government.

Baillieu is set to move quickly, with incoming treasurer Kim Wells confirming the new Premier will call on Parliament to resume before Christmas in order to pass a suite of measures, including changes to stamp duty taxation and tougher public transport security rules.

The new Liberal government is also expected to address a number of issues plaguing the business community, including a proposal to completely rewrite WorkCover laws and issue a report on the competitiveness of the state’s economy.

That quick action will be welcomed by various industry groups, including the Australian Industry Group, with many claiming urgent care is needed regarding the state’s property and taxation laws.

“We have offered a number of policy views that will assist to deliver a boost in productivity and drive economic growth, improve job opportunities, develop the health and education systems and assist with environment policy,” AIG state leader Tim Piper said in a statement.

The coalition cabinet, which includes National Peter Ryan as Deputy Premier, is likely to be sworn in within days, with Parliament set to resume before Christmas. Baillieu’s intentions include abolishing suspended sentences for certain crimes, creating a new agency to overlook the public transport system and the creation of a new anti-corruption watchdog.

Baillieu is also expected to move quickly on a promise to assign two security officers to every metropolitan train station after 6pm. He says the new government’s top priorities will include a focus on public transport and a reduction in crime – two key issues during the campaign.

“I would say that everybody, as I have said many times, is relishing the opportunities which lie in front of us,” Baillieu told reporters yesterday. “We’re also very sanguine about the work that needs to be done and we know there’s a lot of hard work in front of us all.”

But Baillieu still has a range of measures targeted at the business community, with stamp duty reform first on the agenda. The Coalition has promised a stamp duty cut of 50% for first home buyers, to be phased in from mid-2011 – a move welcomed by various industry groups.

Harley Dale, senior economist at the Housing Industry Association, has welcomed the discount to stamp duty but also sees more work is needed.

“I think it’s encouraging we’re looking at a situation where stamp duty for first time buyers will be reduced. Stamp duty is a more onerous tax in Victoria than it is in any other state or territory and it’s the area where we have an affordability challenge,” he says.

“But I think the Government should also make sure that land doesn’t become more unaffordable, and we need to ensure that as we go forward, land prices remain affordable for first home buyers.”

Other proposals for the housing industry include increasing the supply of land on the boundary of Melbourne, a two-year review for the urban growth boundary and the abolition of the Growth Areas Authority. The Liberal party has also promised to speed up approval processes – an issue constantly referred to by the HIA as a thorn in the side of the housing industry.

Other proposals for the business community include a complete rewrite of the existing WorkCover legislation, and the commissioning of a “competitiveness report” that would provide recommendations on everything from taxes to education.

The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the Government – although it says it should commit to cut payroll tax, as Brumby pledged to reduce the state’s tax rate by 0.05%.

“Now that the election result has been finalised, VECCI awaits the Baillieu Government articulating a timetable for its program of projects,” the group said in a statement. Its list of wants include a pledge to construct certain freeways and rail lines, along with a commitment to rethink property planning laws.

“During the election campaign the Coalition supported VECCI’s call for extended clearway times in metropolitan Melbourne to be reviewed and our members look forward to the new State Government’s action on this issue.”

Piper also said the AIG has its own wish list, including action on reforming the state’s tax system, building infrastructure and a focus on education and skills training.

“We will work with the new Government on delivering policies to help ensure that Victoria plays a leading role in the national economy and which best serve Victorian industry to create further opportunities for business growth.”

Brumby is expected to step down as leader, paving the way for either Tim Holding or Daniel Andrews to assume the role, but he is also tipped to remain as a representative for Broadmeadows.

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