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Division in the ranks as Lib pulls land tax no-show

Politics

Treasurer Rob Lucas insists he’s unfazed that a Marshall Government backbencher refused to vote for his contentious land tax changes last night.

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The twice-revised Bill, which cracks down on aggregation provisions in a bid to raise around $86 million a year while returning cash to taxpayers via increased thresholds and reduced rates, as expected passed a crucial vote in the House of Assembly last night.

It will likely go to another vote in the lower house today before progressing to the Legislative Council, where it faces likely defeat, with Labor, SA Best and crossbencher John Darley declaring they would block its passage.

The land tax shakeup has prompted plenty of internal angst within Liberal ranks, with several members privately and publicly voicing concerns about the retrospective nature of the aggregation changes, which have prompted uproar among influential sections of the party’s heartland.

Conservative-aligned Davenport MP and former state Liberal president Steve Murray is one who has publicly voiced his concern, telling constituents in August the plan as it then stood would “unfairly penalise law-abiding citizens” and drive investment out of the state.

InDaily revealed this week Murray had given notice to the party-room that he would “reserve his right” to oppose the Bill when it came before parliament.

He opted to abstain from the second reading vote last night – the only Liberal MP not to vote in support of the legislation.

Murray, who was also one of four backbench MPs to cross the floor against the Government’s Mining Bill, did not comment when contacted today.

The act of defiance, however, is a blow to the unity for which the Liberal leadership had hoped, with Lucas insisting earlier this week he was “confident all government MPs will support the Bill”.

He was philosophical last night, telling InDaily: “The main thing is it’s passed.”

He insisted he was “comfortable” about Murray’s no-show at the vote – which still saw the Bill progress by 24 votes to 21, with former Liberal Troy Bell siding with the Government.

“In the end, politics is all about getting numbers to get something through, and 24 to 21 gets it through,” Lucas said.

“The main debate’s going to be in the Legislative Council, obviously.”

Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said it was “clear that the Premier is wrong in his repeated assurances that his land tax policy has the support of his entire party room”.

“The majority of industry representatives have expressed their dissent in this tax increase, and now a member of his own party-room has done the same,” he said.

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