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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 901

Mr NEUMANN (2:23 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the progress of the government’s efforts to fund the reconstruction effort in Queensland and the other states affected by the recent natural disasters?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for his question. As members of the parliament know, the member for Blair’s electorate and the communities that he represents were very badly hit by the floodwaters in Queensland. Having visited there myself, I know that it will be a long way back but one that the member will be very much involved in, just as he was very involved in dealing with the emergency situation when floodwaters hit.

After such a range of natural disasters hitting our nation over summer, it falls to us to make the decisions in the national interest to rebuild Queensland and rebuild affected communities around the nation. This requires us to make available the money to get the job done. That is why the government have outlined our $5.6 billion package to rebuild communities in Queensland and around the nation. It is the right package.

In addition to that package, we are making available assistance to those communities that have been hit by the devastating cyclone that hit Queensland. I visited some of those cyclone affected communities with the member for Kennedy. We have brought the right package to the parliament. It is the right package because it means we pay as we go. We are not exercising the soft option of simply borrowing and not meeting this obligation. With a strong economy we can afford to pay as we go.

It is the right package too because we have cut back in areas of the government budget. So, for every $3 spent through this package on recovery and reconstruction, $2 will come from government savings. It is a package that has been calibrated to make the right economic judgments. It is also a package that includes a temporary levy which is fair in its construction. This nation has used levies in the past to meet exceptional needs. This levy is the right levy to meet these exceptional needs.

I understand that families always find it tough to make ends meet. But let us remind ourselves that 60 per cent of Australian taxpayers will pay less than $1 a week under this levy. Almost 40 per cent of the funds will come from those earning over $300,000 a year, and that is appropriate. In contrast, people who earn less than $50,000 a year will not be asked to make any contribution at all through the levy. This is the right package, the right way of financing in a strong economy where we can pay as we go.

This week the House of Representatives will make its decision on this flood levy. I use this opportunity to say to the Leader of the Opposition: it is time to put the politics aside and to act in the national interest. It is time to put the politics aside and to support the levy so that we have in place the funding we need in order to rebuild Queensland and rebuild around the nation. The Leader of the Opposition would now honestly have to say to Australians: his alternative funding package is in a shambles and does not even enjoy the support of his own frontbench. In these circumstances, it is time to put the politics aside and to support the government’s legislation. We have a plan to rebuild the nation and to rebuild Queensland. We want to get on with the job, we want to get on with the plan, and consequently the Leader of the Opposition should support the government in those endeavours.