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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 946

Mr VAN MANEN (5:52 PM) —To the member for Oxley and to the other members of this House that have been severely affected by the floods, we are very mindful of those events and we want to see those areas rebuilt. Fortunately, my electorate was not greatly affected at all in the recent floods but, as a consequence, we saw the overwhelming generosity of the residents in their donations—whether it was as clothing, linen, toiletries or donations to the various flood appeals. Those that could not afford to make a monetary donation dug deep into their possessions to give what they could to their fellow country men and women. As with the rest of the country, and in particular those affected by the flooding, residents want to see the reconstruction happening as soon as possible.

The people of Australia in the flood, fire and cyclone affected areas need to know that they have our support in reconstruction. However, the reconstruction must not come at a higher cost than that which those in the flood ravaged communities have already suffered. Through the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 the Prime Minister has proposed a new tax to fund this reconstruction, but this is not what the Australian people need or want. This levy will make things harder not only for those that have already donated but also for those who were hit by the floods. It is unfair to put a new tax and a heavier burden on those already suffering. The people of Australia are concerned about the cost of living pressures that will come with that.

The people of Australia know what it is to cut their expenses and live on a tight budget to make ends meet and, therefore, the government must learn to do the same. If you receive an unexpected bill, you work it into your budget, no matter how difficult; you cannot force someone to pay that bill for you. The flood tax compounded by the proposed mining and carbon taxes will cause many people, including those in areas that have been affected by the floods, the fires and the cyclone, to struggle further and push up their costs of living. The Prime Minister has called this a mateship tax, but mates help each other out; they do not impose an additional tax. I believe the people of Australia have already shown, and are continuing to show, mateship and the true Australian spirit with the generosity they have already shown through this ordeal.

If you force these kind-hearted, hardworking people to pay a new tax, they will not willingly continue to donate and they will resent continuing to help out. Is this the type of community that we want to build, one where residents out of obligation and law rather than out of the goodness of their hearts have to help support these people who have suffered at these times? Let us take a moment to reflect upon the time and energy that were donated to help neighbours and complete strangers to clean up their houses and businesses. You cannot put a price on this community spirit.

This flood tax has the potential to seriously impact people’s desire to act in this manner in the future, and this is despite the fact that the tax will go not to help individual families or businesses but to repair damaged or destroyed infrastructure for which they have already paid a variety of taxes. We should be rewarding the people of Australia for their willingness to give, not penalising them by forcefully extracting a new tax out of them.

I draw to the House’s attention a couple of stories about those in my electorate who donated goods and time when they could not afford to make a monetary donation. An elderly gentleman, a pensioner, who was going through the pain of losing his wife could not afford to donate funds but packed up his wife’s clothes and brought them in hoping to help fellow Australians with his generosity. He knew that through his pain he could bring happiness to someone else’s life. There was also a young family struggling to make ends meet, collecting toys and children’s clothing from their possessions to donate. When they brought the goods in, the children were so proud that they could help, as was the mother for being able to do what she could. These are just two of many similar stories. Although these people could not afford to donate money to the flood relief, they gave what they could from their hearts. This is the Australian spirit at its finest. It is true mateship. It would be a shame to see this ruined by this proposed tax.

On 10 February, the Treasurer stated that the levy:

… is the right thing to do by Queensland and it is the right thing to do by Australia.

How did he come to that conclusion? The levy is merely 0.5 per cent of the government’s annual budget. The government has wasted billions on ill-fated, poorly managed and poorly-thought-out green programs to deal with imaginary global warming that said floods such as these would not happen because it was only going to get drier. How wrong that has been proven. This government’s record is replete with examples of waste and mismanagement of the taxes Australians have already paid. It is this waste and mismanagement which are far in excess of the $1.8 billion being sought to be raised by this flood tax that people are railing against. Now, in a cynical attempt by this government to get this flood tax through the parliament, it has agreed to hand back 24 per cent of the levy to placate the Greens and Independents. It begs the question: why is this levy necessary at all? I repeat the words spoken by the Prime Minister:

… if more money was needed: The money will come from cuts somewhere else.

If the money can be found elsewhere, why impose a new tax on Australians? There is plenty of opportunity to cut the budget, reprioritise and defer spending. The government should impose a tax as a last resort, not as a first. It is not the job of the people of Australia to pay for the government’s mismanagement of funds. This new tax will not contribute at all to restarting the economy and it is going to take from one area of people’s spending and redirect it towards reconstruction. It is just shuffling the deckchairs.

The coalition has articulated a clear and alternative strategy that negates the need for this new tax. The Prime Minister stated that 2011 must be a year for the government to move forward and make decisions, but it also needs to be a year for the government to discover how to live within their means, not a year of imposing new taxes on the hardworking people of this country. The government can start with finding additional savings in the budget and not imposing this new flood tax on the Australian community.