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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 953

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (6:22 PM) —I rise to speak on the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011. I want to start with some of the myths that the member for Cowper tried to perpetuate here, as did the member for North Sydney earlier. This is in relation to who is or was the highest taxing government that we have had in Australia’s history. It is not this government at all. If you look at the years, it is not one year of the Howard government, not two years of the Howard government, not three years of the Howard government and not even four years of the Howard government. Five years of the Howard government have been the highest taxing years of any government in Australia. So the big-taxing government of the last 20 years and since Federation was the former Howard government.

Those on the other side have form in taxation. While they were taxing Australians at record levels, what did they do in infrastructure? Absolutely nothing. They had 19 broadband plans but, you know what, did not quite get around to delivering any of them. They sat on their hands during the first round of one of the biggest resources booms we have had. What did they do with that money? They squandered that money as well. There were no reforms and there was no investment in skills. Instead, we repeatedly had the Governor of the Reserve Bank talking about capacity constraints that were going to cause problems for the Australian economy if they did not redirect some of this tax money—money from the highest taxing government ever in Australia’s history for five successive years—into productive capacity for the Australian economy. Those on the other side have a hide to come to this place and lecture us about taxation when they have the record for not one but five years in a row as the highest taxing government ever.

Did they ever make any of the hard decisions in savings? No, of course they did not. They rode on the back of the resources boom. They let it ride through. They did not do any of the hard work. They never made savings. They had a budget that, if it was not for that boom, was unsustainable. It was this government that had to start to make the hard economic decisions. You only have to look at their economic team during the last election. The opposition had an $11 billion hole and refused to give their costings in for independent assessment, instead going off and doing it privately with an accounting firm that said they were not looking at the costs and relating them to what was being promised. So they were trying to avoid scrutiny, and this is the economic team that says they can do a better job in Australia.

Then when we have Queensland facing one of its greatest challenges ever, with 75 per cent of the state being declared a disaster zone and being inundated with floods, when we have all Australians coming together to try and rebuild Queensland and northern Victoria and make sure we can get those states back together again, what do they do? They do not change their form from any other piece of legislation. For them it is business as usual, ‘Let’s just oppose everything; let’s not be constructive; we are going to oppose the lot.’ It might be helping Queenslanders rebuild. ‘We do not care. We oppose things. That is our mantra. We oppose everything.’ We have seen they have taken that approach here again and it is the Queensland people—if the opposition got their way—who would be missing out. It is the Queensland people who would not be getting the much needed resources.

I should remind any Queensland MP on the other side: vote against this at your peril because the people of Queensland in your electorates will be watching what you do. The member for Moncrieff, the deputy chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, was running a poll on his website to see what constituents in his electorate thought. You know what? Seventy per cent of them supported the levy. You beware out there, Queensland opposition MPs, because you are going to be judged in the way in which you vote on this levy—and so you should be for abandoning the people of Queensland and trying to pay cheap politics in relation to this levy. You should hang your heads in shame.

There are a couple of other things that I want to raise about what the member for North Sydney said. He made some comments about the inquiry that was conducted by the House economics committee. He made a statement that this was rushed through in undue haste, that we had a week to do it and that this was a terrible thing because there was not the ability to hear from people properly. Well, the member for North Sydney should know that it was the deputy chair that moved the motion to set the program for one week with one hearing day. It was the member for Moncrieff who moved that motion, not the Labor Party members, and it was supported unanimously by the committee. The opposition members of the House economics committee voted for that timetable and they knew what was there.

There was also an alleged complaint that they did not have long enough to question Treasury officials. Well, they had two MPs question Treasury officials and so did the government. They had equal time. They only had three people there so two out of three got to ask all the questions they wanted of Treasury. I am not sure whether the member for North Sydney is having a go at the member for Moncrieff and the member for Wright for not asking the questions that he wanted asked, but his criticism is totally unfounded. They had the time and they had two members who were unrestricted in the questions that they wanted to ask of Treasury officials.

Every member of the opposition who says that they oppose this levy suggests we should have been able to pay for it because we should have been in surplus. Every one of them forgets that we went through the global financial crisis and that this government’s performance in the global financial crisis is held up around the world as being the model approach to the global financial crisis. And did it put us into deficit? Yes, it did. But that is what a surplus is for.

When you face one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression, then of course you use your economic reserves to make sure that people have jobs and that they continue to be productive in the community. For the member for Cowper and his fellow members of the opposition to totally ignore this clearly shows that they are not connected in any way with their communities and do not care about jobs, and they should be condemned for it.

One of the arguments put up—and the member for North Sydney put this up—is that an unintended consequence of this levy will be that people will not donate in future to disaster funds, that Australians will suddenly become hard-hearted and say, ‘We are not going to donate because a levy might come.’ You are misjudging the Australian people. They are generous and always have been generous, and whether it is events in this country or events like the international tsunami Australians always dig deep and always make sure they look after those who are suffering. You have totally misjudged them on that.

Locally, we held a fundraiser at Westfield a week after the levy had been announced. Guess what—we raised over $1,000 an hour from people who knew that they were going to be paying the levy. Your argument simply does not stack up. I pay tribute to the Wyongah Girl Guides, who were there to help out; the firefighters from Berkeley Vale, who went with tins round the shopping centre; and the Toowoon Bay surf lifesavers, who helped and raised money. I also thank Westfield, who assisted with the fundraiser and made their shopping centre available to us. I thank Chipmunks childcare centre, who put up a jumping castle that kids could use for a gold coin donation. People knew their kids were having a good time, but they knew they were also contributing to the raising of money for the flood victims. I also thank the Mariners, the great Central Coast A-League soccer team, who later this year will go on to victory when they make the grand final and win the A-League! They contributed and supported the fundraiser as well. We were also lucky enough to have Australia’s first MasterChef, Julie Goodwin, cooking sausages and raising money for flood victims as well. So I place on record my personal thanks to all of those people who clearly showed the opposition’s arguments to be wrong. We raised over $1,000 an hour on that day for flood victims—a week after the levy had been announced. It shows that Australians are prepared to pay and do their bit through the levy but are also prepared to dig into their own pockets separately for fundraising.

Finally, to put this into perspective, 70 per cent of the people in my electorate will not pay a cent of the flood levy. The next 20 per cent—so that takes us up to 90 per cent of people in my electorate—will pay less than $3 a week. We are talking about very small amounts that Australians are being asked to contribute. Australia-wide, fewer than 50 per cent of Australian taxpayers will be asked to contribute to the levy. When we had the gun buyback levy, one of seven levies that those on the other side put in place, 80 per cent of taxpayers were asked and forced to pay it. The only levy that these people opposite oppose is the one that is helping Queenslanders rebuild Queensland, and it is because it is in the DNA of the Leader of the Opposition. It does not matter what the issue is, he will oppose it. These bills are very important bills. They should be passed, and those on the other side should hang their heads in shame for opposing them. I commend the bills to the House.