Treasurer unswayed by SEMMA plea

SEMMA chief executive Honi Walker has stepped up the campaign against land tax hikes on manufacturers.

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

A South East manufacturers peak body has called for a Parliamentary inquiry as its campaign against steepling land taxes and valuations failed to move the state’s treasurer.

Honi Walker, who is chief executive of South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance (SEMMA), said that at a sought-after meeting with Treasurer Tim Pallas, he “basically ignored our request for a freeze (on land tax rises) for manufacturers and passed us to the Valuer General Victoria (VGV).”

The alliance were then “irate” with the response from VGV which reportedly said: “If you don’t like the valuation – then object”.

The land tax rises were introduced as part of the State Government’s ‘temporary’ Covid Debt Repayment Plan.

SEMMA, backed by an emphatic survey of manufacturers, is calling on a cap on the hikes which are “gouging” manufacturers to cover the Government’s “Covid debt burden”.

A Hallam firm’s land tax bill soared more than $119,000 in the past year – tripling from $58,575 to $177,400.

It’s a move that will cost jobs and investment as well as hinder business’s ability to compete interstate and overseas, SEMMA argues.

“Our members are hurting,” Walker said.

“These increases have been felt across our entire membership base and the effects will be felt at the consumer level when we are forced to increase our prices to cover these tax hikes.

“If you thought the cost of living was high now – just wait until manufacturers and the supply chain pass on their land tax increases. It just doesn’t pass the pub test.”

SEMMA argues that manufacturers should be exempt from land tax rises due to providing an “essential service” and putting “our sovereign capability” at risk.

Meanwhile SEMMA was hopeful that its call for a Parliamentary inquiry will be heeded.

Walker said the land valuations were a result of VGV’s contracted valuers who use a “complex calculation” with a 10 per cent statistical variation.

“Suffice to say, you need an economics degree and a degree in land valuation to work out these increases.”

The Government argues that the land tax scale remains “progressive” – in that smaller property owners pay proportionately less than those with larger landholdings.

A spokesperson said the Treasurer met with SEMMA and “will continue to engage with industry”.

“We’re continuing to invest in Victoria’s manufacturing industry to help local businesses innovate and expand as they are key to growing our economy and supporting local jobs.”