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Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Page: 888


Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) (9:46 AM) —I am very pleased to join this debate on the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood and Cyclone Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood and Cyclone Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011. First of all let us remember the extent of the damage that our country has suffered during the horrible summer of 2011. We have had floods in the South-East Queensland area and right up to Central Queensland, we have had floods in northern New South Wales, we have had floods in Victoria and parts of Tasmania, we have had the horrific fires in Western Australia and we have had Cyclone Yasi in my part of the world. They have been a series of events that have truly shaken the people of Australia, but I want to put on record my belief in the resilience of Australians and their ability to get through the situation that we face.

As we know, Queensland has suffered terribly. There have been enormous personal losses in people’s homes and businesses and there have been incredible losses to public infrastructure, particularly in the area from about Rockhampton south and in my region as well. As I indicated to the chamber during the condolence debate, the psyche of our community has been challenged. There are many Queenslanders who are suffering from trauma. There are many Queenslanders who are particularly hurt. There are many Queenslanders who are grieving the loss of family members. That is the situation we have on the ground in Queensland at the moment. So now is the time for political leadership in this country to be shown. Now is the time to stand together with people whose lives and businesses have been broken. Now is the time for our political leadership to commit to being with Australians who have suffered so much, to be with them in the rebuilding task. And that is what we are seeing from our government. We have a plan to work with families and people whose businesses have been lost to rebuild their lives. We have a plan to work with our fellow Australians—a plan to care, to build and to stand with those who have lost so much.

But what we have seen from those opposite is another example of opposition for opposition’s sake, another example of fearmongering, another example of ‘divide with the hope of conquer’. When Australians need personal and emotional support, we have seen those in the Liberal and National parties put their own personal political fortunes ahead of the needs of many Australians. Our government has been responsible in designing the funding of the rebuilding that our communities require. Our government will cut some spending programs and defer some new infrastructure to the value of $3.8 billion and we will apply a one-off, 12-month levy to those who are earning more than $50,000 a year and who are resident outside the disaster zones. In my view that is a sensible balance between savings in the federal budget and the broader community sharing the load of the rebuild.

Can I say that the 12-month levy will have a very small impact on family budgets. People who are on $55,000 will contribute 48c a week to this fund. People on $80,000 will contribute $2.88 a week. This is not a large amount of money. The rate that has been set is appropriate to recognise that we all want to be part of sharing the rebuilding load. Even the Premier of Western Australia said that that state wants to help support the people of Queensland. This is about Australia coming together and saying: ‘Let’s all recognise the hurt and the losses. Let’s come together and make our small contribution to the rebuilding effort that is required.’ Someone on $200,000 a year will pay $24.04 a week, which can be compared to the tax cut that that individual will have had. The cumulative tax cut that that person has had is $116.35 a week, so they are still ahead. The arguments that the opposition are running, I can only say, are based on a desire to divide the nation.

The opposition has lacked the leadership that our community needs at this time. The opposition has intentionally confused the issues to promote its political cause. Australians have been generous in their contributions to the Premier’s disaster recovery fund. It is important to remember—and the opposition has been confusing this issue—that the Premier’s disaster recovery fund will be used for the building and replacement of private property but not public infrastructure. The public infrastructure will be funded by government through, as I said, the deferral of infrastructure spending, savings in the federal budget and $1.8 billion that will be derived from a one-off levy. The opposition has intentionally confused the purpose of each of those two funds in the public’s mind.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many Australians and the many people from around the world who have contributed to the Premier’s fund. Those funds will be allocated directly to needy families whose losses have not been covered by personal means—either through insurance or the capacity to look after the losses themselves. This is a sensible approach. It is a mix of public and government contributions. It indicates that the rebuild in Queensland will be a shared responsibility. It is time for the political leadership of this country to stand with our fellow Queenslanders who are still battling with the disaster rather than continue to see what we get from the opposition.