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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 904

Ms LIVERMORE (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Will he update the House on the impact of the recent natural disasters, on the government’s plan to finance the rebuilding of Queensland following the floods and on any risks to that plan?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Capricornia for that very important question, because the impact of both the floods and Cyclone Yasi in Queensland—as well as elsewhere in Australia, flowing through to Victoria—has been absolutely immense. What we are dealing with here in economic terms is the largest natural disaster in Australia’s history. Of course, we are learning more about its impact, particularly in Far North Queensland and North Queensland, all of the time. I have had the opportunity to go there in recent weeks, and it has been quite dramatic. So we have a very big repair and rebuilding job on our hands. As a nation what we have to do is approach that in a mature way; we have to approach it in a responsible way. The government announced our $5.6 billion package, two-thirds funded by savings and one-third by a modest levy, to do precisely that. And that was before we saw the impact of Cyclone Yasi. So we have a very big rebuild on our hands.

In those circumstances, a modest, temporary levy is the reasonable thing to do. A modest, temporary levy for someone on $68,000 a year is $1.74 per week—$1.74. It is not a large amount of money for people to chip in so we can get together a larger amount of money to rebuild our nation—Queensland in particular but also elsewhere in the country. It is also important that we do it in this way because we have a big economic challenge on our hands, particularly to prepare for the impacts of mining boom mark 2. That is very important as well.

In the middle of all of this, have we seen a responsible approach from the opposition? Of course we have not. Just like they said no to all of the initiatives that were required during the global recession, they have said no. Just as they said no to tackling climate change, they are saying no to rebuilding Queensland. In a national crisis, no is not an answer—but that is all we get from those opposite. It is extraordinary and particularly galling that they can come into this House and pretend that they have never supported levies before. On six occasions they have been in this House, when previously in government, supporting a levy. Up until now, there has never been a levy they did not support. So why is it that they can support a gun levy and they can support a Timor levy but they cannot support a levy to rebuild Queensland and other parts of Australia after the biggest natural disaster in our history?

What is even more breathtaking and just demonstrates how out of touch they are, how bizarre they are and, indeed, how crazy they are is that they can argue that we cannot have a levy only months after going around Australia campaigning for a $6 billion levy—the centrepiece of all of their initiatives for the last campaign, $3 billion a year—to fund parental leave. A levy was good enough to fund parental leave in their campaign, but it is not good enough to rebuild Queensland, not good enough to rebuild Australia. This shows that this opposition leader is all opposition and no leadership and that the opposition will play politics at every opportunity. They will not work together as we should, given these natural disasters, to rebuild our country. I say they should put politics aside and help us and the country rebuild Queensland and the rest of Australia.