Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 28, 2022



Stamp Duties Act 1923

The Hon. S.L. GAME (16:30): I move:

That this council calls on the Treasurer to—

1. Cause the Stamp Duties Act 1923 to be reviewed with reference to the appropriateness of residential stamp duty brackets.

2. Investigate options for modernising the stamp duty bracket system, such as:

(a) concessions and exemptions;

(b) an annual property tax in lieu of stamp duties.

3. Ensure conditions of the current South Australian land and housing market is appropriately reflected in the stamp duty brackets.

4. Ensure industry experts and bodies are consulted in any such process.

I am moving that the Treasurer cause the Stamp Duties Act 1923 to be reviewed, with reference to the appropriateness of residential stamp duty brackets; that the Treasurer investigate options for modernising the stamp duty bracket system, such as concessions and exemptions or an annual property tax in lieu of stamp duties, both of which are in place in other jurisdictions; that the Treasurer ensure that conditions of the current South Australia land and housing market are appropriately reflected in the stamp duty brackets; and that industry experts and bodies are consulted in any such process.

It is simple due diligence upon the Treasurer to review the residential stamp duty brackets, which have not been assessed for 15 years. Bracket creep is as real with stamp duty as it is with income tax and needs to be looked at. In South Australia right now, if you purchase a $500,000 home you will pay $21,330 in stamp duty. A property in the ACT with the same value would only attract a $13,460 stamp duty, and in Queensland a $15,925 stamp duty.

The ACT, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland all have conditional exemptions or concessions for first-home buyers and pensioners. First-home buyers in New South Wales are exempt up to $650,000 from stamp duty and then have a discounted rate of stamp duty on a home up to the value of $800,000. Additionally, New South Wales homebuyers can also now choose between the stamp duty fee or an annual land tax fee. In Victoria, first-home buyers are exempt up to $600,000 and pensioners exempt up to $330,000.

Why should South Australians be left behind? Why should our first-home buyers not have access to the same stamp duty exemptions as interstate peers? Why should our pensioners not have concessions or exemptions to downsize out of large family homes now that the nest is empty? Why are we not doing everything we can with the current housing crisis to free up land and housing?

A review, which is what I am calling for, will show where opportunities and improvements lie. I call on the Treasurer to cause a review to be undertaken and a report of the review to be prepared and provided in relation to investigating options for modernising our stamp duty system, including an investigation of the introduction of a land tax option in lieu of stamp duty; investigating concessions and exemptions for South Australians, especially for first-home buyers and pensioners; investigating where the levels of residential stamp duty bracket should be in relation to current house and land prices; and considering mechanisms to keep any revised system up to date and relevant on an ongoing basis.

We are in the middle of a statewide housing crisis. I want a swift investigation into measures that can help improve the situation for ordinary South Australians. To not review the stamp duty brackets leaves the government appearing inattentive. I want all South Australians to have a chance at owning a home, but prices are rising much faster than incomes. The One Nation vision is to exempt first-home buyers from stamp duty up to $600,000 and for older people to have access to a $400,000 exemption to downsize and free up large blocks and big homes. This concept has recently been endorsed by a senior economist from the Australia Institute.

The party understands that home ownership increases personal freedom, creates communities and provides stability. The highest bracket of stamp duty is now well below the median house price in South Australia. As of May 2022, median expectancy is $650,000; the highest stamp duty bracket is capped at $500,000. Everyday families are paying the same stamp duty rate as those purchasing million-dollar houses. This bracket creep taxation is simply a lazy way of raising revenue. Plenty of industry advocates have called for this review. They call our current stamp duty model an archaic cash grab and that it damages housing affordability.

A senior economist for The Australia Institute publicly backed One Nation's call for exemptions for first-home buyers and for senior South Australians downsizing. The Housing Industry Association, a 75-year-old national regulator, called it Australia's most ineffective tax. The Real Estate Institute has said that the tax was unforgiving to first-home buyers and that bracket creep is a major consideration as sale prices increase and the Property Council of Australia said it was a handbrake on the economy.

Everyday South Australians deserve housing security and fair market access. They should not be penalised for the government not keeping pace with the realities of inflation. Hardworking South Australians deserve a chance at owning a home, but prices are rising faster than incomes and we need mechanisms to fix this. Other states are attempting to improve the system for their constituents and so should we. I commend this motion to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.