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Tony Windsor calls for permanent disaster rel -

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TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: The flood levy proposal is only a day old but as the Federal Government
begins the big sell it's already facing some major hurdles.

Under the scheme from July, most Australians would pay between $1 and $5 a week in extra income tax
to raise $1.8 billion in a levy the Prime Minister says will be for one year only.

The Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as labelled it as 'lazy and unnecessary'.

But Julia Gillard still has to get it through the Parliament and needs the support of the
Independents.

Federal Independent MP Tony Windsor wants a permanent natural disaster fund and I spoke to him
earlier today.

Tony Windsor, why are you calling for a permanent disaster fund?

TONY WINDSOR, INDEPENDENT MP: For many years I've believed, in terms of these extreme natural
disasters, we need a national response to them rather than the sort of ad hoc responses we tend to
get from time to time depending on the profile of the event, the electoral cycle and other things
that might drive some political attention.

TRACY BOWDEN: So is it your view that in the past the funding arrangements made after natural
disasters haven't worked well?

TONY WINDSOR: Well in the main there's been different responses to different disasters. Even though
there has been a State and Federal relationship in terms of disaster response in the past-

And I agree with the Prime Minister, in terms of normal natural occurrences - floods and fires and
things - we do have a response mechanism that works most of the time. But in terms of these extreme
climatic events, we can't get ourselves in a position where we've got to re examine the budgetary
cycle every time one occurs.

I think we need to put in place some sort of revolving sovereign fund that's there, maybe it's
capped at a certain level so that irrespective of the politics of the day there are certain
criteria - very strict, in my view - that could be accessible in terms of these extreme events.

TRACY BOWDEN: So does your support for the relief program depend on getting that permanent disaster
relief fund?

TONY WINDSOR: I want to look at the detail of what the Prime Minister is proposing. I want to talk
to others in the Parliament. I will have an open mind whilst the debate's on and then make a
decision.

I am not going to fall into the trap of making a decision a fortnight before we have the debate. I
think that'd be improper as well as probably foolish.

TRACY BOWDEN: The Prime Minister has been quite definitive. She said the levy is a one off, the
conditions are clear. So can't you give some indication of whether you would support that levy?

TONY WINDSOR: No, I can't because I haven't seen the detail of the proposal. I haven't seen the
criteria under which the Queensland Reconstruction Authority will actually work.

I haven't seen a newspaper today. No doubt they'd have all the activities in it.

I just can't stop my normal work because the Prime Minister makes an announcement. I'm going to
take some time when I have got the time to look at all the fine print in terms of this. And I don't
think we've seen all the fine print yet.

So regrettably, in terms of people wanting to know where I'm going, I don't know where I'm going
yet and I think it'd be improper of me to go anywhere until I see the fine print.

TRACY BOWDEN: The Prime Minister has said that this needs to happen quickly. Rebuilding must get
under way soon. So are you prepared to go along with it on that basis, even if you don't get the
permanent fund?

TONY WINDSOR: The levy doesn't start to be imposed until July 1 and presumably won't be collected
until the following year if it's based on income tax. So we're 18 months from the collection of it.

So even though there's some urgency to get some of the planning, I'd urge a little bit of caution
in terms of embarking on some massive rebuilding program in the next fortnight. I think we want to
do a bit of planning about where some of these structures might've been inappropriately built in
the first place.

I don't think there's that degree of urgency out there in the arena at the moment. And the
government can do this other ways.

My information is that the only reason this will be coming before the Parliament is the imposition
of a levy. It could be done through operating a deficit or borrowing. It could be done through a
whole range of ways that could actually pay the bill which won't occur for probably 12 or 18 months
anyway.

So I don't see that undue haste is reason why I should be dropping everything and making a decision
on this within a day of the announcement.

TRACY BOWDEN: So if you can be convinced that what has been devised is going to work, you could
vote for it, even without any promise of that permanent disaster fund?

TONY WINDSOR: I could vote for it. I might not vote for it. I haven't made a decision on that. And
regrettably, Tracey, I'm not going to make it on your program.

TRACY BOWDEN: Tony Windsor, thanks for talking to us.

TONY WINDSOR: OK, thanks, Tracy.