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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Page: 1110

Mr NEUMANN (10:31 AM) —I support the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011. In my electorate of Blair, farms are destroyed, roads are ripped up, bridges are gone and homes have been inundated—vital community infrastructure has been damaged. Indeed, the electorate of Blair and the whole of the West Moreton region, Ipswich, the Lockyer Valley, the Brisbane Valley and adjacent areas have experienced the most destructive force that nature can offer.

In Queensland we have suffered dreadfully and our economy will suffer. Coal exports may be down by as much as $5 billion, rural production may be down by $2 billion and I shudder to think what it will be like in the Brisbane Valley and the rural parts of Ipswich. There is a damage bill of about $300 million to the tourism sector and of the remaining industries manufacturing and retail has lost $500 million. That is before we really look at the impact of Cyclone Yasi in North Queensland.

This is a terrible tragedy. Just today I visited the website of the Somerset Regional Council and obtained the list of the roads that are closed and the bridges that are down in my electorate. At the height of the flood the list was two pages long. Neurum Road is closed between Villenueve Quarry and Villenueve Road. Gregors Creek Road is closed at the Brisbane River because the bridge is lost. Patrick Estate Road is open with caution, only because the culvert structure has been lost. Strassburgs Road is closed. At Minden Village, Zabels Road North is closed. The Esk Hampton Road is closed. Across my electorate of Blair roads are closed everywhere and bridges are gone. Sure, we have seen wonderful communitarian spirit, with neighbours helping neighbours and strangers helping newly acquainted friends. We have seen wonderful volunteerism. The loss will be incalculable and the damage immense. It is estimated at $5.6 billion before the impact of Cyclone Yasi.

We will deliver the funding required to rebuild not just Queensland but Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. We will deliver this funding by making $2.8 billion in budget savings, saving $1 billion by delaying infrastructure projects and raising $1.8 billion through this temporary levy. The member for Mitchell talked about those people in his electorate earning $65,000 a year. If they were not flood affected, as they would not have been, they would be paying $1.44 per week to help their fellow Australians. If they were earning $75,000 a year, as he mentioned, they would be paying $2.40—less than a cup of coffee would cost in any of the cafes in his electorate. This is important legislation and it is important to recognise the fact that the levy is very modest. Over 85 per cent of people will pay less than five dollars per week. Fifty per cent of taxpayers will pay nothing.

Yet we hear sanctimonious sloganism and sentiment uttered by the member for Mitchell. We have the unctuous, righteous sanctimony from the Leader of the Opposition, saying he wants to support business, but what about the global financial crisis? The coalition opposed the very measures that would have supported the 1.5 million Australians working in the retail sector. He has come into this place twice and said he opposes the flood levy, but at the last election, six months ago—and I understand it is still coalition policy—he wanted to slug Australian consumers with a $6 billion paid parental leave business impost indefinitely, forever. He could not give a date when it would stop. If you thought that would not have been passed on through the prices paid by consumers in suburbs of my electorate, like Brassall, Bundamba, North Booval, Lowood and Fernvale, which were hit by the floods, you would be kidding yourself. This proposed coalition program was all in favour of helping the rich. It was all to make sure that people earning more than $150,000 a year would get paid parental leave, and the coalition proposed it knowing full well Labor had a scheme, a historic reform, ready to operate from 1 January this year.

We have seen what those opposite will do with respect to costings. They allege they are the party of the market, free enterprise and economic prudence. It is a nonsense. Historically, the Labor Party—we saw it during the governments of Hawke and Keating and we are seeing it now with this government—is the party of reform. It is the party that makes the difficult decisions that need to be made. The coalition claim they are supporting regional and rural Australia, but they voted against measures to provide $37 billion for roads, ports and railways in regional and rural Australia. The opposed the provision of $22 billion for those areas in the west, in rural parts of Queensland and Western Australia, which have been so much affected by natural disasters.

They claim here, and I have heard it time and time again, that they are opposed to the BER. Their proposal in opposition to it was announced after much agitation and procrastination and cogitation and meditation. The member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, went on for day after day saying he could find savings easily until the point he said ‘It’s difficult to find them, but we’ll do it anyway.’ But that would have left a $1 billion black hole—if his costings were accepted—as a result of the deferrals, and he knows that it is against the national interest to cut funding to poor Indonesian schools. It was straight from the textbook of One Nation. I was the Labor Party’s campaign director in Ipswich at the height of One Nation’s popularity, so I know a bit about them. The same people who were handing out stuff for the Libs and the Nats at the polling booths in the Ipswich and West Moreton region before 1998 did the same thing for One Nation after 1998, and you see them these days doing it for the Libs and the Nats again. In my area, One Nation and the LNP are indistinguishable—the same sentiment, the same ideas, the same philosophy and the same notions. You can see it, of course, in those opposite and hear it in the words they utter. You can tell that they get the ideas from Mr Ian Nelson of One Nation, and that is why Mr Nelson is the spiritual leader of the Liberal Party across there.

They are opposed to the BER. They say they will defer $150 million from the BER—that is their alternative to raising the flood levy. List the projects in your schools and that you do not want. You say, ‘Give the money to us; we’ll use it in our schools.’ You say, ‘It’s a waste of money.’ But come to my electorate and tell the people in Esk, where the multipurpose hall funded under the BER acted as the evacuation and recovery centre in which hundreds of people got fed every night during the height of the floods and dozens of people stayed, that it is a waste of money. Tell the people in Fernvale who have the BER funded hall which I opened at Fernvale State School. That hall was the place where the people stayed and got fed. It was the place where they slept and the place that they broke into, and that place was needed by Fernvale and its area. You claim the BER is a waste of money. Did you ever read the report of Brad Orgill’s BER task force? Did you ever read the Auditor-General’s report? I guarantee that you did not, because the report of the BER task force said that 97 per cent of the projects were without complaint. That is exactly what it said.

They said also that they would cut funding for the GP superclinics. That is what they proposed to pay for their flood fund. But guess what the GP superclinic did in my electorate. The GP superclinic in Ipswich, located at the University of Queensland adjacent to the evacuation centre at the showgrounds, along with St John’s Ambulance provided medical assistance to hundreds and hundreds of people at the height of the flood. Yet those opposite say that they would cut the funding for the GP superclinics—they oppose them. Also, the doctors from the GP superclinic went down to Riverview Neighbourhood House, where there was an evacuation and recovery centre feeding hundreds of people every night, to help workers and volunteers make sure that people had a place to stay. Those opposite would cut the funding for the GP superclinics that have helped out people in my electorate. That is the reality of those opposite, and they should know it.

I think that, in their heart of hearts, they know this is the right thing to do. I think that, if John Howard were the Prime Minister now, he would be putting in place a levy for the floods, just as he introduced levies on many other things. He raised $1.48 billion through the superannuation surcharge levy, $500 million through the gun buyback, $1.74 billion through the milk levy, $100 million through the sugar levy and $269 million through the Ansett airline levy. He did all that while running a surplus, and we supported him on those sorts of things. Yet those opposite will not support us—and that is the truth. Come to my electorate and see the 700 streets in Ipswich that were inundated. Go and talk to the thousands of people who are no longer living in their homes but living in caravans and tents and say to them that you will not provide the funding, you will have a black hole and you will put the economy in a worse place.

The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that the proposal to cut funding to Indonesian schools is wrong. The Leader of the Opposition came in here to speak on the condolence motion on the flooding and started listing electorates that were hurt by the flooding. He understands neither electoral demography in Queensland nor flood geography, because he did not mention my electorate. He did not mention the member for Oxley’s electorate, nor that of the member for Moreton. But he did mention the electorate of the member for Petrie. He does not understand that the member for Petrie’s electorate was not flooded—he claimed that it was flooded. That is how much he understands and likes Queenslanders. The truth is that we are seeing opposition from the coalition to important income-raising measures and saving measures which are extremely important for Queensland.

Those opposite claim that we are a high taxing government. Let us have a look at the record. Apparently, they do not know that we have saved $83.6 billion in the last three years and do not know that we are the envy of their Western world because of that. They claim that we are a high taxing government, yet currently the tax-to-GDP ratio is 20.9 per cent. The Howard government got nowhere near that. Under the Howard government it was in the mid-20s all the time. Those opposite are addicted to tax. They claim that they are the party of low taxation, but they never once found a levy that they did not like when they were in power. If those opposite want to help Queenslanders, they need to support this levy. This levy is particularly important for South-East Queensland, and those opposite know we need it. They know in their heart of hearts that their position is wrong. They know their leader is opposing the levy because he is engaged in opportunism—opposition for opposition’s sake. All he is trying to do is to relive the last election. If they had won the last election, they would have brought this flood levy in. They would be asking for our support, and we would give it. This is not the time to argue; this is the time to agree. This is the time for bipartisanship. This is the time to rebuild; it is not the time to break down. It is the time to help, not the time to hinder.

Those opposite do not realise that this is so important. Through the mayor’s fund in Ipswich and particularly the Somerset Regional Council fund we raised tens of thousands of dollars, and today I thank James Hardie, which has contributed $250,000 to the Ipswich mayor’s flood fund and the Premier’s flood fund in Ipswich yesterday.

The Premier’s fund in Queensland has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. But we need billions of dollars because we need to rebuild the bridges, roads, ports and essential community infrastructure that those opposite do not like. There has never been a bill in this House in the last three years in relation to roads affecting my electorate—whether the Ipswich Motorway or any other road in my electorate—that those opposite have not voted against. They voted against all the nation-building funding and legislation that provided the funding for Roads to Recovery black spots in my electorate. That is the reality of those opposite. They will not vote for roads funding to build the roads, and now they will not vote for the funding to rebuild the roads. That is the legacy of those opposite. The members for Ryan and Brisbane in this chamber should hang their heads in shame for their failure to support their fellow Queenslanders. They should have a word with the Leader of the Opposition and say: ‘Tony, it’s time to fess up; it’s time to do the right thing by Queenslanders and it’s time to do the right thing by the flood victims of Queensland. It’s time to rebuild Queensland, it’s time to be bipartisan and it’s time to get with the program.’