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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Page: 1103

Mrs D’ATH (10:01 AM) —I rise to support the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011, which seek to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, the Income Tax Rates Act 1986 and the Income Tax (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997 to introduce a one-year progressive flood reconstruction levy in the form of an additional income tax on Australian residents and foreign resident individuals in the 2011-12 financial year. These changes will ensure that those with a greater capacity to pay make a larger contribution to the rebuilding of disaster affected regions of Australia through revenue raised by the levy.

It was only in the last sitting week of this parliament that many people in this chamber from both sides stood up and gave their condolences to families and friends of the victims of the Queensland floods. Those left behind have started to rebuild their lives; they still have a long way to go in those rebuilding efforts, but it is time to start rebuilding Queensland and its economy. To do that we need to rebuild our major infrastructure that has been devastated by these floods.

We have heard many arguments from those on the other side in relation to why this flood levy should be opposed. We just heard the Leader of the Opposition talking about the history of this Labor government and taxes. Let us put some facts around these debates on taxes. The fact is that this federal Labor government since coming into office in 2007 has provided three rounds of tax cuts for individuals. It is this Labor government since 2007 that has adjusted the tax scales to provide a lower income tax offset and thresholds. For those who will be paying this levy who are earning above $50,000, this is what they have achieved under a Labor government: a tax deduction of $29.81 per week over the tax cuts—a cumulative tax cut of $29.81 per week since Labor came into government. Per annum, these people are now paying $1,550 less per year than they did under the Howard government. In return, what is being asked of these people who earn $80,000 a year is that they pay $2.88 per week to help rebuild Queensland and to help strengthen our economy.

We have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition that to strengthen an economy you need to support business. That is absolutely true. But you support business by ensuring that the infrastructure is adequate, that the roads, rail and ports are operating to their maximum capacity. You do not do it by making cuts or taking away important infrastructure or stopping major infrastructure development.

We heard from a number of members that one of the proposed cuts should be the National Broadband Network. We heard previously from the Leader of the Opposition that, as far as he is concerned, the National Broadband Network is just about getting your emails downloaded faster. We heard from the member for Cowper yesterday that it is just about being able to download your videos faster. This once again shows how much the Leader of the Opposition and the opposition as a whole underestimate the importance of the National Broadband Network and the impact it will have across this country not just for businesses but especially in areas of education and health. That is why important infrastructure such as the National Broadband Network must continue to be rolled out across this country. You cannot just take it away and expect to see the economy continue to grow.

We heard the claim that we should scrap superclinics. The cuts that have been announced by the opposition to pay for the reconstruction are, not surprisingly, not new ideas. This has not come about because the opposition sat down and gave serious thought to where there could be cuts so that the funds could be found to reconstruct Queensland. All of the announcements they have made are announcements they made in 2010 as part of their election commitments: they would scrap the National Broadband Network, they would scrap future superclinics, they would scrap important school infrastructure. These are exactly the same announcements they made in 2010 during the election period and they have rolled them out again and said they should be scrapped to pay for the rebuilding of the Queensland economy.

I will not be surprised to be in this chamber sometime over the next 12 months or the next couple of years and hear once again that these things should be cut to pay for something else, because this is what the opposition’s real objective is all about. We have heard about the tax cuts. We know it is a complete furphy and that in fact it is the Labor government that has provided three lots of tax cuts and changes to the thresholds that have delivered real benefits to households across this country.

We have heard the baseless scare campaign that, because of this levy, people across Australia are going to stop making donations when there are natural disasters. We have heard a number of members on the other side run this scare campaign. This truly underestimates the Australian people. We know that the Australian people come out at times of need and they help. Whether it is financially or physical help, as we saw with the Queensland floods, or donating goods, they are out there helping. I expect we will see that same compassion in relation to what we have witnessed in the last 24 hours in New Zealand.

We do not just need to stand here and say, ‘We think the Australian people will keep donating and keep helping even if there is a levy implemented.’ This is not hypothetical. It is fact. It is happening in our communities right now. I can inform this chamber that since the Gillard Labor government announced that we would consider introducing a bill to introduce this flood levy to apply for the 2011-12 financial period, my electorate has not stopped fundraising. My electorate has not stopped collecting goods. They have not slowed down. In fact, they have increased. There are functions happening all over the electorate of Petrie to raise funds. We had seen the Kippa-Ring Lions Club and their jumble sale, the CIRP and the Golden Ox helping those most in need, and the Redcliffe Community Association Support Crew have held functions. Last Friday I had the great pleasure of going to pick up a donated electric piano to the value of about $3,500 to $4,000. It is in beautiful condition. A couple who heard me speak at a function about the schools affected by the Queensland floods wanted to donate this electric piano. We picked it up, with the help of the Redcliffe Leagues Club. They donated their trailer for us to use and we drove it down to Ipswich East State School, who had lost all of their music equipment, and we donated the piano to them. People are still donating. People want to help. That is the Australian spirit, and people will continue to provide this help.

After the government announced that it would be introducing a flood levy, I received a phone call from a lovely lady in my electorate who is a pensioner living in one of our retirement villages. She wanted to know how long the Premier’s flood relief fund was going to go on for and how long people would be able to donate. She wanted to know this because she was not going to be liable to pay the levy, and she wanted to do her fair share. She was asking how she could donate $20 a month for the next 12 months so that she could contribute like all of those in the workforce will contribute through the levy. To stand in this chamber and to argue that this levy will stop Australian people wanting to donate and to offer support in times of need is, to be honest, utter rubbish. Those on the other side should go out and talk to their communities; because clearly, if they are running this argument, they have not.

We have heard from the member for Cook and we have heard a bit from the Leader of the Opposition that under the Howard government they believe they earned the right to impose levies, because they created a surplus and so this somehow gives them the right to impose a levy. So what we say to the Australian people is that by being a government that has a surplus that could potentially absorb the cost of an initiative like this, ‘We are not going to touch the money in the bank. We are going to go and put our hand in your pocket.’ That is okay in those circumstances. As a government that spent 11 years getting a surplus because they squandered the boom and they chose not to invest in infrastructure, that is why they had a surplus. The Australian people are meant to believe that in fact they earned the right to impose a levy on people.

Let us compare that with the actions of the Labor government since coming to office in 2007. It is this government that dealt with the global financial crisis, that acted quickly and decisively to support jobs across this country. It is the Labor government that is now the envy of the developed world in relation to managing the economy through the global financial crisis. If you want to talk about the right to go to the Australian people and say, ‘We need your help. We need to rebuild Queensland, we need to do it quickly, we need this major infrastructure rebuilt’—

Mr Laming interjecting

Mrs D’ATH —I certainly would challenge the views of those on the opposite side and their recollections of the Howard government and their right to impose levies on people.

We also need to deal with this issue of who is actually going to be paying the levy. We heard from the member for Forde yesterday. He gave a couple of examples of who is going to be impacted by this levy. The example he gave was of a pensioner whose home was flooded. Once again, those on the opposite side of this chamber do not understand this levy. They have not bothered to read any of the detail of who actually pays. To stand here and say that a pensioner is going to be liable: is that pensioner getting an income of more than $50,000? I doubt it. The reality is that the examples that the other side are throwing up are ridiculous examples with no basis to them.

We have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition, who actually said that the only people who will not pay this levy are the people who had their homes inundated and claimed relief. Once again: have they read the bills? In fact, those earning $50,000 or less will not be paying this flood levy. I ask those who are to speak after me on this flood levy to please read the bills. If you listened to the statements of those who have spoken before me you would think that they do not know who this levy applies to.

The fact is that this levy is modest, temporary, sensible and responsible. It is important that we rebuild the major infrastructure in Queensland. The Premier’s relief fund will assist those individuals to rebuild their homes, but we need to get the major infrastructure in Queensland repaired as quickly as possible to help the local economies, the state economy and the national economy. That is what this levy will do.

I am very proud to be standing here as part of a Labor government that saw this country through the worst financial crisis that this country has ever seen and now is willing to make the tough decisions to rebuild Queensland after the most devastating floods that our state of Queensland has ever seen. I support these bills before the House.