'Outer area' car rego will be axed, Sharkie appeals

Cars on Kangaroo Island. File photo
Cars on Kangaroo Island. File photo

Islanders by now should have received a letter in the mail that their Outer Area Concession saving them 50 per cent of their vehicle registration is being phased out.

From July 1 the concession will include a 25 per cent reduction, then on July 1, 2020 there will be no concession.

Federal Member Rebekha Sharkie has written to the Transport Minister urging him to reconsider.

She said she believed this revenue raising decision was poor form, particularly for the Government that campaigned in the last election on "regions matter".

"With lower median wages and higher costs of living than the average South Australian, Kangaroo Island residents are already feeling the effects of high levels of economic and social disadvantage," she wrote.

"Limited medical and education services can seeresidents travelling great distances to access these services. For many residents of Kangaroo Island cars are a vital mode of transport due to the limited public transport options and connections to the mainland. Residents are already forced to pay return ferry fees of approximately $190 whenever they need to travel to and from the mainland. The removal of the concession will subject these residents to further financial difficulties."

Mayor Michael Pengilly said he too was disappointed and had also made his feelings known to the State Government.

One silver lining was that KI was to receive an extra $1 million for roads, over and above the current State Government allocation of $2 million, he said.

Ms Sharkie meanwhile has called on the Productivity Commission to add KI to its schedule of public forums as the Federal Government continues its review of tax relief for remote communities.

The Commission currently has nine community forums organised as part of its 12-month investigation into the existing provisions for Zone Tax Offset, Fringe Benefits Tax Remote Area Concessions and the Remote Area Allowance.

The only forum scheduled for South Australia is in Andamooka, prompting Ms Sharkie to write to the chairman of the Productivity Commission, Michael Brennan, to ask him to include Kangaroo Island.

"It was really only after I began lobbying the Government about Kangaroo Island's exclusion from these tax relief provisions that this review was announced so it makes sense for the Island to host a forum so our community can argue its case," she said.

"There has been a well-organised community-led campaign to adopt Zone Tax Offset B for Kangaroo Island with local resident Lisa Thompson organising a petition signed by nearly 20 per cent of the Island's adult population, nearly 800 people.

"I believe it is incredibly unfair that people living on the Whitsunday Islands can claim tax concessions but Kangaroo Island residents cannot."

The Zone Tax Offset, Fringe Benefits Tax Remote Area Concessions and Remote Area Allowance provide financial support to people living in remote areas of Australia.

The locations eligible for these forms of assistance are determined by geographic 'zones', defined in tax legislation, which have remained largely unchanged since they were established in 1945.

Ms Sharkie has met with the relevant Ministers since taking office in 2016, arguing that Kangaroo Island should be included in the tax area known as Zone B.

Zone B compensates for geographic disadvantage and could put between $57 and $1600 in the pockets of individuals and families on Kangaroo Island.

The Government announced a review into the provisions in late 2018.

The final study report is expected to be presented to the Government in February 2020 and publicly released shortly after, she said.