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New leader, same fire taxes mindset
Sunrise Exchange News, 31 July 2007

Don’t expect new Victorian Premier John Brumby to be making moves to dismantle his state’s web of insurance taxes – he’s been one of their strongest proponents.

Steve Bracks resigned as Premier on Friday, making way for his long-serving Treasurer to move into the top job. Mr Brumby’s promotion was confirmed after a Labor Party caucus meeting yesterday. Rob Hulls was elected Deputy Premier, replacing John Thwaites.

NIBA regulation consultant John Hanks says the industry will be taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the new leadership team.

Given that Mr Brumby was one of the strongest proponents of the current taxation regime for insurance, there is little reason to expect changes to imposts like the fire services levy. But further reforms of tort laws and workers’ compensation arrangements are possible.

Much of that will depend on the appointment of a new treasurer to replace Mr Brumby. Finance Minister Tim Holding and Education Minister John Lenders are considered to be frontrunners in that particular race.

Mr Lenders has previously held the Industrial Relations, Finance and WorkCover portfolios while Mr Holding has experience as Minister for Emergency Services.

Of the two, insurers are likely to be barracking for Mr Lenders. Mr Holding was the minister behind the notorious State Emergency Service Act in 2005, which was rammed through Parliament without industry consultation. The Act, which was designed to levy more money for fire services from large Victorian businesses, came into effect last year.

But after consulting the industry and actuaries his successor in the Emergency Services portfolio, Bob Cameron, abandoned the scheme two months ago.