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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 880


Mr PERRETT (1:01 PM) —I rise to support the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the related bill before the House. I would like particularly to commend the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for her strong leadership—and also Deputy Prime Minister Swan—in the wake of these natural disasters which we have had: floods in Victoria, floods in Brisbane and South-East Queensland, and the cyclone in North Queensland. Queenslanders and Victorians will never forget this courageous rebuilding package.

In these debates there is obviously a bit of lining up on either side of the chamber. It was interesting in the preceding speeches—and people should go to the videotape and have a look—to see the people behind the speakers. It is quite telling. I was sitting in my office getting my speech notes ready, and I looked at the people behind Joe Hockey, the member for North Sydney. It was amazing. There were three new members, all from Queensland: the member for Forde, the member for Herbert and the member for Ryan—my next door neighbour. The only border between us is, in fact, the Brisbane River—that very big river that flooded recently.

I watched the member for North Sydney go through his 10 reasons and the like, but I also looked behind him. I am a bit of an expert when it comes to standing behind people doing talks. Ben Fordham called me the bonehead of the year last year for one of my performances in the election campaign, so I can speak with a bit of authority on this. That is still a drink you owe me, Ben Fordham! I looked at the new noddies—the backbenchers sitting behind the speaker. I thought, ‘They are new MPs; maybe they don’t know,’ so I thought I would give them a bit of a tip, and that is: when the speaker on your side is putting forward an idea—in this case, 10 ideas—it is a good idea to nod. It was as if these Queenslanders had an iron bar for a backbone: they were stock still, not moving at all. They did not want to show anyone that they supported what the member for North Sydney was saying. I thought, ‘Maybe they are new MPs, so let’s have a look at the member for Casey when he talks.’ He had the member for Bonner behind him and the member for Bowman right next to him—two other Queenslanders. But it was exactly the same thing: not a movement—not a single nod in his whole speech. Maybe it was because the 10 reasons from the member for North Sydney were a little bit like David Letterman’s 10 good reasons, but they were not funny—that was the only sad thing.

Certainly, as Queenslanders we know how important this reconstruction is. I can just imagine when the Liberals had their strategy meeting about this legislation: the brains trust would have been there and the member for Wide Bay would have thrown his bid in as a Queenslander. They would have sat at Liberal Party headquarters and said, ‘What are we going to do?’ The first thing that the Leader of the Opposition would have said is, ‘Let’s call it a big new tax.’ That is his strategy for everything—it is either ‘no’ or ‘Let’s call it a big tax.’ That is his simple strategy.

Then, of course, because there is a bit of competition going on over the other side at the moment, we would have the member for Goldstein saying: ‘We need to do more. Let’s give 10 reasons; one is not enough’—10 reasons why they would oppose the flood levy. Well, I have got 5,200 reasons why we should support the flood levy. That is how many properties in my electorate alone were affected by the floods. And if we go up the river, across the river or up to North Queensland, we would see many other properties that have been affected. People who have been in the area—not just swanned in, picked up a broom and scrubbed for half an hour—know how much the infrastructure has been impacted on. The reality is that I do not think the member for North Sydney understood that, whilst that will help up to the gate, the Queensland Premier’s flood relief money will go beyond the gate and help out other people.

That is what people need to understand. I think some people have forgotten. It has only been a month or so, but people have forgotten that this was the biggest economic disaster ever. The legislation is not the temporary ‘incident’ reconstruction levy. It is not an incident; it is a flood—a massive flood, a massive disaster. It is not called the temporary ‘hiccup’ reconstruction levy. This had a massive impact on Queensland’s economy—and not just Queensland. It will flow everywhere. Queensland produces a lot of our fresh fruit and vegetables, as I am sure the Leader of the National Party would know. Queensland also has a lot of mining that has been impacted on. I met with the Coal Owners Association yesterday. They were going through some of the impacts that are going to flow throughout the economy. Of course, as every Queenslander knows, tourism has taken an absolute hammering. So I think the Liberals need to go back to their strategy meeting and work out a better way of approaching this.

Let’s have a look. We need $5.6 billion to rebuild major infrastructure in Queensland and Victoria, and we will deliver this funding through $2.8 billion in budget savings—$1 billion in delaying a couple of infrastructure projects and $1.8 billion from the temporary levy. This is the sort of levy that strikes the right balance. No-one will be paying the levy if their income is under $50,000. I know it is not a lot of money for some people opposite, but it is still pitched reasonably. Sixty per cent of taxpayers will pay less than $1 a week and 70 per cent of taxpayers will pay less than $2 a week. Let’s be honest: if we look in our heart of hearts, people earning more than that can afford to pay just a little bit more. The good thing is that those people in the Ryan electorate, Moreton electorate, Oxley electorate, Blair electorate et cetera who were affected by the floods, who received a disaster relief payment, will be exempt. So they will not have to dip into their pockets to rebuild Queensland and Victoria.

So we have two-thirds from savings, and one-third is coming from Australians who earn over $50,000. The opposition from those speaking on the other side of the chamber is nothing more than a political stunt. As I said, you can tell that by looking at the people behind the speaker. It is quite shameful, really, especially when they say they are almost ideologically opposed to levies being used in a time of emergency. During the Abbott and Hockey years, there were six proposed levies: a superannuation levy on high-income earners, levies on the milk and sugar industries and a levy to buy back guns after the Port Arthur incident—a levy which, I must say, took an incredible amount of courage from John Howard because of some of his National Party supporters. I know it took a lot of courage and I commend him particularly for that. There are three things I thank him for and that is one. There was also the levy to help meet the entitlements of Ansett staff, a levy to help rebuild East Timor and that great big mother of a levy—the one to fund the opposition leader’s pie in the sky parental leave scheme.

So I think we understand that this levy is necessary after a great economic disaster. So what do you do? You are sensible and you ask people who can afford to to just dip into their pockets a little bit. It is interesting—I have actually been contacted by a few of my constituents who say: ‘We were affected by the floods but we want to pay the levy. It’s the right thing to do and it would help people.’ For example, Martin Finbow from Chelmer, one of the wealthier areas in my electorate, contacted me. He is exempt because he was affected by the flood but wants—insists—on being able to pay. He wants to be able to opt in to pay. There is another bloke from Coopers Plains who did not want his name mentioned. He earns less than $50,000 a year but also wanted to opt in to pay the levy. I am sure there will be others when they realise what it is going to do and how it is going to help Queensland.

Maybe the Leader of the Opposition is listening to the polling at Liberal Party headquarters or something and putting that before the needs of Queensland. However, I would rather we listened to that strategy rather than turning to the opposition immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison, to find out how he would respond to the disaster. I imagine his strategy would simply be to rename Cyclone Yasi—to change it to ‘Cyclone Yusuf’ and blame it on the Muslims. That would be his strategy.


Mr Truss —That is low.


Mr PERRETT —That is not my idea; that is actually Andrew McGahan’s idea in his novel Underground from 2006. It is set in 2011 when Canberra has been taken over by a Liberal totalitarian government.


Mr Chester —So much for the high moral ground! You are a grub. Withdraw that!


Mr PERRETT —Excuse me—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—The member for Moreton has the call.


Mr PERRETT —Thank you, Deputy Speaker, and I will be guided by you on these things. If you think I have offended the opposition immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison—it is a direct quote from a book called Underground—and if it would assist, I am happy to withdraw.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —It would assist the House if you would.


Mr PERRETT —I will withdraw, but it would have been nice if he withdrew—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Those on my left will desist from interjecting.


Mr PERRETT —As I said, in my electorate of Moreton I have had 5,200 properties impacted, and 1,000 of them are businesses. So there are more than just a thousand people. Some of these businesses, like the Rocklea markets, have 3,000 employees. The suburbs of Chelmer, Graceville, Sherwood, Corinda, Tennyson, Oxley, Yeronga, Rocklea, Fairfield, Moorooka, Coopers Plains, Yeerongpilly, Acacia Ridge and Archerfield were all hit hard, and these suburbs that were hit hard understand how urgent it is that we get this infrastructure levy through.

I would just like to thank a couple of the heroes in my electorate who have done some incredible work. I will not be able to name them all, but some are Graham Hodgson, an Oxley electrician; Melinda McInturff at Yeronga State School respite centre; Patrice Cafferky from Yeronga, who organised some community meetings; Joy Vardy from Yeronga with the welcome home baskets; Moorooka Lions, including Robert Johnson, Damien Meeney and the Acacia Ridge and District Community Centre for some of the Rocklea responses; and the Oxley State School P&C. Trish and Patrice have been very active in getting the response together at the Oxley State School. There is the Campbell family as well. Graceville has been fantastic, particularly the state school P&C. Ian Hall, the principal, Wayne Penning and many others have done some great work in Graceville. Corinda’s Dunlop pool organised community meetings. There is also St David’s at Chelmer, with John Corner at St David’s parish drop-in centre. Karen Simons ran a respite centre at her home in Strong Avenue. Then there is George McLauchlan, my 96-year-old hero in Leybourne Street, Chelmer, and the Oxley community flood relief group.