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Gillard's tax plan

Nick Bryant | 07:16 UK time, Thursday, 27 January 2011

Presenting it as a communal act of national mateship, Julia Gillard has opted for a flood tax to help pay for the reconstruction after the floods. Most Australians will end up forking out between A$1 and A$5 a week, although low income earners and the victims of the floods themselves will be exempt. About two-thirds of the A$5.6bn reconstruction money will come from cuts in infrastructure spending and some flagship environmental programmes.

Usually, budgets frame the political year. Now, the floods reconstruction programme - a kind of emergency budget, if you like - will define Australian politics for the months to come. As we noted in Floods: The Fall-Out , its ideas and implementation has the potential to make or break Julia Gillard's prime ministership.

Ms Gillard is essentially arguing that every Australian should lend a helping hand, that the sums involved are affordable and modest - it's already been dubbed a "light-touch levy" - and that most of the money will come from savings from the federal budget.

In reply, the conservative opposition has complained that the government is imposing yet another tax, that many people who have already made charitable contributions are being handed the collecting plate for a second time and that it could depress consumer confidence at a time when retail spending is already flat. They argue that deeper savings could have been made from the federal budget, and that the levy is not necessary.

Politically, there are risks for both sides. The Labor government has what are euphemistically called "delivery problems": a reputation for botching the implementation of major spending schemes, such as the school rebuilding and home insulation programmes.

The Liberal-led opposition runs the risk of sounding heartless in the face of Queensland's suffering.

As the head of a minority government, one obvious question is whether Julia Gillard is capable of getting her proposals through parliament. Having deferred or killed off some of the government's environmental programmes, such as the cash for clunkers scheme, the Green Car Innovation Fund, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, the Green Start program, and the Solar Hot Water Rebate scheme, it will presumably be harder to secure the all-important vote of the Greens MP, Adam Bandt. The government says the best way to tackle climate change is to attach a price to carbon, but these were intended as remedial measures before an emissions trading scheme comes into effect, whenever that may be.

The independent MPs, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, have already been non-committal.

A couple of quick, further observations. Many of these environmental projects being delayed or axed were Kevin Rudd's pet projects. Indeed, the former prime minister stood alongside Barack Obama at an international summit in Italy to announce the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. This may come to be viewed as the true end of the Rudd era, according to ABC's political commentator, Annabel Crabb.

Some readers might be interested to learn that the government has promised fast-track approval for temporary skilled migrants who wanted to go to work in flood areas.

So should Australians lend a helping hand by putting it further into their pocket?

UPDATE: Deploying the "M-word" once again - her frequent mentions of "mateship" are presumably designed to give the proposals a measure of political immunity - Julia Gillard set out today to sell her flood reconstruction programme. In a radio interview this morning, she was given one of the tougher cross-examinations I have heard an Australian prime minister subjected to.

It came from Neil Mitchell, a Melbourne radio talkback host famed for his hard-hitting style of interviewing. At times ill-tempered, you can listen to an excerpt from the 20 minute interview here, and it's bruising stuff.

And here's something to set the cat among the pigeons. The state premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, who faces a tough re-election campaign in March, is calling for the tax to be adjusted for Sydneysiders to reflect their higher costs of living.

"The Commonwealth, before they lock this levy in stone, may do well to consider some fine tuning... what we know is that mortgages are higher in NSW on average and other costs of living are higher than other capital cities like Adelaide and Perth," she told reporters.

"Families really are doing it tough... many in NSW have already given so much in charitable giving and will have to pay more through rising food and other costs as a result of the floods."

Comments

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  • 1. At 08:47am on 27 Jan 2011, Whitfordsbeach wrote:

    Julia Gillard is old style Tax and Spend Labor (Her politics will be very familiar to British readers). Her instincts are to raise income tax and keep it raised. This is a 'very good time' to bury bad news tax rises.

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  • 2. At 09:26am on 27 Jan 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    In Davos everyone is complaining about the rises in commodity prices.

    Maybe Julia could be getting the miners to pay some more.

    Has that new Mining Tax been agreed and put forward? Or is Julia waiting for the Greens to hold the balance of power in the senate?

    No answer on the schooling query then Nick?

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  • 3. At 09:47am on 27 Jan 2011, DanNZ wrote:

    If Australian's can't afford to help our a neighbor in need then who can?

    Australians are the tenth richest country in the world per capita yet 75% are unwilling to help out their fellow countrymen when they have lost everything.

    I remember the Australia from the 70's & 80's where life was about the land, the beaches, BBQ's and mates. Did all that wealth turn them sour? Polling on Australia's national papers indicate three quarters of Australians are against the levy. Is this really being debated?

    Apparently taxpayer money should only be used to bail out banks - not sinking lives.

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  • 4. At 09:53am on 27 Jan 2011, Will wrote:

    A year before Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister, I remember sitting listening to an old friend tell me that it was "criminal that Howard and Costello had maintained such a large surplus- there was plenty of important projects to spend it on."

    Now 4 years on, the surplus is gone. It was spent largely on pink bats, extravagent consumer items (to "stimulate the economy"), schools that cost 3 times what they should have and ....bureaucracy.

    It is no surprise that the ALP through Rudd and Gillard squandered the nations savings and now want to impose a further tax which is counterproductive to the stimulus package that was such a blatant waste of money.

    Apparently the Australian people should save for a rainy day, but successive ALP governments don't practice what they preach?

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  • 5. At 10:06am on 27 Jan 2011, bubbles151 wrote:

    Considering that Julia Gillard seems slaved to the "Green" movement and built on a flood plain on the ridiculous advice that there would not be rain in that area again. Apparently planned building of a dam (to contain such flooding ) was cancelled.

    The slavish devotion politicians and their special interest groups have to the global warming agenda is utterly overblown and the consequences of such arrogance has real material consequences which they're passing on.

    Raising taxes is not the solution. The Australian government made this mistake and now expects tax payers, already ripped off; gouged again because their elected representatives prefer ideology over science.

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  • 6. At 10:39am on 27 Jan 2011, Euloroo wrote:

    @3
    Dan, its not a simple matter of not helping a friend in need. Australians have felt the pain suffered in the Lockyer Valley and have shown huge generosity to those in need. And thankfully because the flooding was stormwater based, most of those with insurance will get some financial payout.

    Starkly compare that to Brisbane where decades of dodgy deals have let developers build units in areas known to have flodded in 1974. Why should ordinary hard-up individuals bail out those same developers?

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  • 7. At 10:54am on 27 Jan 2011, marcus wrote:

    I find it sad that instead of relying on aussie generosity and mateship which would build morale for the whole nation - we have to slap on a tax...

    Really sad

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  • 8. At 11:14am on 27 Jan 2011, DoomOnYou wrote:

    I'm wondering why the Insurance Companies aren't getting alot more scrutiny.

    The Today Tonight and ACA's shows have been filled with people saying they were ripped off. It seems like everyone justs thinks "typical" shrugs their shoulders and walks off many people simply don't know what they are paying for.

    @DanNZ

    That is harsh, Australians have been very generous with flood victims, and you are missing the point it's not really about the money "once off taxes" tend to stick around long after what they were initially intended for is payed off.

    Asking questions about how federal money will be spent is not ungenerous its prudent given Labor State and Federal Governments track record.

    Also there is an underlying dubiousness amongst Australians that the money will actually go to flood victims and not to big business who are better able to absorb losses.

    Furthermore what about Queensland state government's allowing developers to build thousands of homes in Flood prone areas? and as you say Australia is a wealthy country many question why we would need such a levy at all, shouldn't a general disaster fund exist already in a country that is prone to all kinds of natural disasters on a relatively regular basis?

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  • 9. At 11:34am on 27 Jan 2011, inUKozzie wrote:

    The reluctance to pay the flood tax isn't a matter of people not wanting to help their fellow countrymen; consider how much money has already been donated to the flood relief fund. Also, people will help in the ways that they can - donating toys, clothes, some even offering their houses for people to stay. It cannot be said that Australians aren't willing to assist.

    But there has to be a reluctance to another tax when we all know the extreme spending spree the Labor party has had in the past 4 years, spending the huge surplus left by a budget-conservative Liberal government. And it continues with wastage on relatively (to this kind of need for funds) unnecessary projects.

    The traditional ALP solution to the need for more money is to tax the "wealthy". However, these days, $50,000 isn't necessarily a big salary and doesn't render people wealthy, particularly in light of how much day-to-day living costs.

    The question was raised yesterday - if there is a flood tax this year, what about in the future - the potential in our beautiful, yet harsh, country for another natural disaster is unfortunately high. Will there be a bushfire tax? A drought tax?

    I, for one, am hoping that those people who joined with Labor to form a minority government will take a good hard look at the people they got into bed with. Although if this tax goes through, maybe people will realise the true financial ramifications of having a Labor government and will free us from this burden in 2013.

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  • 10. At 11:54am on 27 Jan 2011, BrisbaneGuy wrote:

    Well said DanNZ!

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  • 11. At 11:57am on 27 Jan 2011, petesherwood wrote:

    My girlfriend and I are about to emigrate to Sydney. We have very similar jobs, but, as I remind her almost daily, I managed to negotiate a slightly better salary than her. As it now transpires, whilst I will be earning just over this flood tax threshold, she will be fractionally under.

    Does that mean I will now be worse off than her? Because I'm not sure I could take the humiliation. Please tell me these will be top-sliced!!

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  • 12. At 12:34pm on 27 Jan 2011, tarquin wrote:

    3 DanNZ:

    'If Australian's can't afford to help our a neighbor in need then who can?

    Australians are the tenth richest country in the world per capita yet 75% are unwilling to help out their fellow countrymen when they have lost everything.

    ...Polling on Australia's national papers indicate three quarters of Australians are against the levy. Is this really being debated?

    Apparently taxpayer money should only be used to bail out banks - not sinking lives.'

    --

    What do you mean by we aren't helping out our neighbours? For the past month we have been raising money in emergency appeals run by no less than the Queensland premier, our biggest companies, the media giants, local councils and the like all we've had in the media is 'donate to Queensland', and I'm pretty sure a lot more than 25% were happy to voluntarily donate

    Now we are being forced to donate in what can only be described as the most literal interpretation of tax and spend I've ever seen, it's ruining all that good will that had channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into charity so please don't talk about us being tight, for some reason you think government tax-raising is the only way to be generous? I'd much rather trust the salvos than Gillard

    To return to the real issue at hand - as Dan says, Australia is a wealthy country, it is in fact at the moment relatively one of the strongest countries because it was barely touched by the banking crisis, it has a deficit that the UK, Europe and the US can barely dream of and intends to return to surplus (yes, surplus) by the next election, Gillard could easily drop the surplus plan in this time of need and borrow at a low rate in a perfectly acceptable way but instead increases the tax burden

    Our taxes should already be covering natural disasters - we have them every single year! But instead the government, which as Nick Bryant says, has an appalling record on delivery and wastes incredible amounts of our taxes cannot look past the end of its nose and thinks we need an emergency tax to pay for a short term crisis when it already takes nearly 30% of our income to create ideas that never come to fruition

    Also, last time I checked Australian taxpayers didn't need to bail out banks

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  • 13. At 1:36pm on 27 Jan 2011, Simon wrote:

    There are a few things wrong about this tax. Firstly, there has been some good will with Australians donating their cash and giving up their time to assist with the floods our of good will. Now they have been told that they will have to pay additional taxes to repair infrastructure. This would be acceptable, but most Australians are aware of the wastage of tax payers money the Labour Government has been responsible for (e.g. the BER program).

    A credible Government should have made reserves for these situations. So, every time an extreme event happens in Australia, will the Government simply add a tax?

    The one thing that really bothers me is that I get the feeling that the Gillard Government has been looking for an excuse to recover costs of its wasteful spending. The floods have provided that perfect excuse to raise taxes and whilst infering it is unethical not to support such a levy. I hope that the Australian public won't be taken in by this stunt.

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  • 14. At 4:00pm on 27 Jan 2011, Terrace37 wrote:

    I wonder whether people will continue to make voluntary donations to the disaster funds set up by charities when the levy will require them to make a non-voluntary contribution. So by announcing the levy, has the government undermined the ability of the different charities to continue to collect money for flood disaster victims? I hope not but fear so!

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  • 15. At 4:50pm on 27 Jan 2011, Caerphillybigcheese wrote:

    Forgive me for having my twopence worth, but this tax is a bit like the banking bailout and just another case of the ordinary bloke pays, whilst the polluter gets of scot free i.e The vested interest of developer greed and your local, state and federal governments.

    I've said it before on these blogs and I'll say it again. I've worked as an Urban Planner in Australia and I've seen at first hand whats gone on down under. Thousands and thousands of homes being slung up on the cheap, without proper infrastructure or servicing and in the case of Queensland in known flood plains. I got so disillusioned I came back home for a while. You can say what you like about the UK, but hear it from someone who knows, when a house gets build in the UK these days at least its built propery, which is more than I can say for a lot of the dross being slung up south of Perth in Brisbane, up and beyond the Adelaide Hills and on the outskirts of Melbourne.

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  • 16. At 4:53pm on 27 Jan 2011, Whitfordsbeach wrote:

    I think it's fair to say that Australia is beginning to have the same discussion that has been going on in the US, Ireland, Britain and much of Europe for some time now, namely can the government really spend our money more effectively than we can ourselves. Put bluntly if I have spare Dollar to donate for flood relief is it better that I give it to the Red Cross or Salvos to spend or that the government takes it and tells us that it is spending it wisely on our behalf.

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  • 17. At 8:47pm on 27 Jan 2011, Treaclebeak wrote:

    Australians will pay for flood reconsruction one way or the other,it's just another pea and thimble routine. Essentially the Government and Opposition are arguing as to which segment in society will foot the bill. Naturally the Opposition prefers to place the burden on low income groups by reducing spending and Labor will attempt to increase the tax take from higher income groups and of course, 'The Surplus', is sacred.

    Voluntary contributions are well, voluntary and are irrelevant to state policy,unless of course Tony 'The Wrecker' Abbot sees an opportunity to make political mischief.


    Speaking of wasteful government spending, are those two egregious examples of middle class welfare, the Baby Bonus and the First Home Buyer's grant still operating? If so,there's plenty of fat to be trimmed there. We could also stop the taxpayer funding of private schools,that would save billions.

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  • 18. At 8:53pm on 27 Jan 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    Whitford - the big debate in the UK, Ireland and Europe at the moment is actually to what extent are the banks responsible for government deficits. And how to regulate the banks so that they never again rely on an indirect government support.

    That and whether Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to increase his share of media ownership given that his journalists have been accused of illegal phone hacking to get stories.

    There has been a major debate about tax dodging by corporations and high net worth individuals - but I was not clear on whether that was what you were referring to.

    I think you will find that Australia's deficit is not even in the same league as the US, the UK and much of Europe.

    But don't take my word for it - have a look at the websites of any major US or EU paper.

    On another matter - C'mon Nick what school did you go to? I have money riding on this!

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  • 19. At 9:05pm on 27 Jan 2011, VpinOz wrote:

    DanNZ: You've missed the point, obviously. Most Australians have donated generously, and no doubt will continue to donate to those affected by the floods, as we have for those in other disasters - bushfires, etc. We may be wealthy but it comes from being sensible with money. The Labor government is known for it's wasteful spending so another tax, laughingly labelled 'one off' will more likely be spent the wrong way, hence the dissention.

    Cassandra: why does it matter where Nick went to school?

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  • 20. At 11:05pm on 27 Jan 2011, Diana wrote:

    I think I can afford $1.00 per week for a year to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the floods.

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  • 21. At 11:12pm on 27 Jan 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    VpinOz - it was in the context of Michael Parkinson saying the big difference between Aus and UK was that class was not as important.

    There is a big debate going on in the UK at the moment about growing inequality, about how the cabinet and the parliament is dominated by people from fee paying schools and how this may be dangerous in circumstances where government spending is being slashed in order to reduce the deficit.

    There was an hour long programme on BBC last night called Posh and Posher: Why Public School Boys Run Britain. The presenter noted that the BBC was also dominated by people from fee paying schools even though only 7% of UK kids go to such schools.

    I also have a crazy theory that it is those Brits who went to fee paying schools who are more likely to be wound up by Aussie self confidence/arrogance. Aussies don't understand the idea of deference and don't understand "chippy" as an insult.



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  • 22. At 11:30pm on 27 Jan 2011, Michael wrote:

    I've already donated, and I have not problem with donating a few dollars more, but I'm with everyone else saying there needs to be serious oversight on the spending of these additional funds.

    On a side note, my mum's over from the UK and we were discussing whether or not the reaction in the UK to similar disaster there would have been as generous as the Australians have been to those in QLD and Vic, and unfortunately we didn't think it would be.

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  • 23. At 00:02am on 28 Jan 2011, Whitfordsbeach wrote:

    Cassandra, due to a complicated family life I spend a lot of time in both the UK & Australia. I even have the honour to pay some tax in both countries(don't ask). For me there is suprising little debate in the UK about how the country reached the financial state it is. For me it was a heady mix of polititians turning a blind eye to the excesses of bankers because the revenues were just too good a thing for funding their spending ambitions chasing re-election and we the public failing to ask the right questions of our political masters. Anyway the net result is the poor UK tax payer and those who need public services will pay the price for decades. The UK squandered the boom years of financial services revenues. Australia is equally squandering the chances provided by the two decades and counting of growth. She should have infrastructure that is the envy of the world - but where has all the money really gone? Wasted? You tell me. While we are comparing nation's handling of resources profits - if anyone is interested enough - have a look at what Norway has done with it's oil revenues.

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  • 24. At 00:40am on 28 Jan 2011, sydneycynic wrote:

    I've got a question which somebody might be able to clarify for me. I understand this levy only kicks in when a persons income exceeds $50K. It is payable by way of an increase in the Medicare levy from 1.5% to 2%. I always thought the Medicare levy only applied to people who didn't have private health cover. Seeing richer people tend to have private health cover won't they be exempt from any flood levy?

    I'm also expecting to cop some flack from most people but I don't think insurers have done anything wrong. People are expecting to receive cover even though they didn't pay the appropriate premium. People now expect insurance companies to pay out billions as some type of ex-gratia payment. If they did that many of them would go bankrupt and the people with legitimate coverage would be up the creek. This is not to mention the millions of us who have investments in insurers by way of our superannuation. If you don't believe me just think back to HIH. If people really want a scape goat they should look at the goverments who release this land so they can get their hands on the revenue. I don't see why insurers should underwrite governments who release land on flood plains.

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  • 25. At 00:54am on 28 Jan 2011, DoomOnYou wrote:

    @ Cassandra

    When you say Australians don't understand the concept of "deference" what exactly do you mean? Respect? Courtesy? Humbleness?

    I think Australias just prefer not to give "deference" to those who don't deserve it or haven't earned it.

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  • 26. At 00:59am on 28 Jan 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    Whitford - couldn't agree more.

    Governments behaved irresponsibly and wastefully.

    Bankers and miners should contribute a bit more to the societies that host them.

    But of course the two issues are inter-related.

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  • 27. At 01:18am on 28 Jan 2011, DoomOnYou wrote:

    @ Sydneycynic

    No-one is suggesting that insurers underwrite Government policy but the selling of insurance to home owners is predatory and many people are just not conversant with their own policies,

    They rely on company honesty to tell them whether they are appropriately covered or not, and in a typical greedy way insurers are quite happy to let people pay for certain things they are never going to need.

    Honestly how many people in this country understand legal speak? The people on this blog are not representative of the major portion of Australians.

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  • 28. At 01:23am on 28 Jan 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    Doom - to defer to people according to their position in society - what you say in para 2. Australia is more meritocratic - not to say it is egalitarian paradise just that class is less important (i.e. I agree with parkie).

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  • 29. At 02:15am on 28 Jan 2011, DanNZ wrote:

    Q.E.D indeed… Q.E.D

    If you remove the politically motivated arguments above we are only left with the generosity argument.

    We have been very generous:

    Total Donations: $176,568,665
    Corporate Donations: $93,473,835
    Donations per man, woman and child in Australia: $3.69
    For everything else there's MasterCard apparently...

    Corporate Donations Received: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2011/01/australian-corporates-dig-deep-qld-flood-relief-updated
    Total Donations: http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html

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  • 30. At 02:27am on 28 Jan 2011, sydneycynic wrote:

    Unfortunately Doom I think you under estimate the intelligence of the average person. Many people knew they didn't have flood cover because they received a quote and then decided it was too much. Furthermore, people are often "under insured" because they don't want to pay for the increased level of coverage. I don't think that's the insurance industry's fault. Also, insurers were deluged by requests for cover as the the water was rising. Also, a lot of people flooded were living in million dollar water front houses. Not to mention CBD businesses sitting right on the Brisbane River. I don't think these people should be categorised as innocent babes in the woods. If people are uncertain about the nature of their coverage they should make sure they obtain all the clarification they require. After all, their house more than likely represents their greatest investment. I would agree that the industry should have a call centre so people can ring up and make general enquiries about matters like flood cover. This is assuming they don't have an insurance broker who has already told them their not covered. Unfortunately, as stated previously, the phones would only "light up" when it was too late.

    I've got to admit that I don't know whether I agree with a levy or not. I do have some concern that people who do have insurance will start to abandon it. It's the old moral hazard argument as people won't bother if they can see others paying to bail them out. When this happens I'd like to know who is going to pay for utilities like the fire brigade. This organisation is funded by way of a levy included in insurance premiums.

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  • 31. At 03:32am on 28 Jan 2011, zach wrote:

    Australia is definitely a derivative country. We fly another country's flag and fight in other countries' wars. The only worthwhile thing we have ever invented is Australian Rules Football (the game we have called "football" for 150 years). It is the most exciting code of all, massively popular with the locals, but there is now a push (supported by government funding) to ditch it in favour of soccer. Why? Well playing soccer may give us more attention from overseas.
    Australians crave attention more than anything else, and they are dumb enough to give up their own identity to get it. Pathetic.
    Nick, if you want to know something about Australian culture, you should get into the game. Before it is too late.

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  • 32. At 04:04am on 28 Jan 2011, DoomOnYou wrote:

    @ Cynic

    Just to clarify I'm not implying Australians are too stupid to understand their insurance just a general laziness and unfounded belief in the system of which the insurance companies are apart of and quite happy to take advantage of.

    I'll concede your point about not all flood victims necessarily being...... well victims, and that people usually don't worry until it's too late, but at the very least more oversight is needed to keep track of what people are actually paying for especially for those who wouldn't have brokers or be able to afford legal advice. The very fact that you need advice for something as fundamental as insurance is a shame.

    The Insurance companies aside, I agree that the true blame lies with successive Queensland governments allowing developers to build homes on flood plains. Also correct me if I'm wrong but after the '74 floods wasn't Wyvenhoe Dam supposed to mitigate a lot of the major flooding along the Brisbane River? So much for that.

    Good point about moral hazard re: the levy, when does the welfare state take away from personal responsibility? One thing that's not being spoken about is the urgent need for the mines to start operating again whether you believe in the levy or not if they don't get up and running and delivering their quotas soon, we will be suffering more in the hip pocket than just the levy.

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  • 33. At 04:57am on 28 Jan 2011, sydneycynic wrote:

    Like the levy doom, I'm undecided whether the insurance industry's motive is to rip off the public. If they are they're doing a pretty bad job of it. I've had shares in HIH, IAG and Suncorp. One's gone belly up and the other two's share prices have gone through the floor.

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  • 34. At 06:46am on 28 Jan 2011, Paul C wrote:

    If you earn over a fairly low salary you don't benefit from the payouts but you pay the levy. If you earn under you get all the benefits and no levy. Gotta love socialists. They always look after their voters.

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  • 35. At 07:28am on 28 Jan 2011, South1 wrote:

    A typical Australian Labor party response - make other people pay for their mismanagement They spend a government surplus taking Australia into deficit in a record 3 years and wonder why there is not enough money in government contingency budgets. How about holding people accountable for a lack of preparation for the flood scenario. It wasn't a 100 year flood at all, it was a 30 year event.

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  • 36. At 08:27am on 28 Jan 2011, PeterD wrote:

    36.

    The best solution is to scrap the grandiose and overly-ambitious National Broadband Network program and replace it with the more economically viable and incremental approach proposed by the Lib/Country coalition. This should free up sufficient funding to support flood damage reconstruction as well as implementing some related physical infrastructure projects.

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  • 37. At 10:11am on 28 Jan 2011, Mick wrote:

    As a newcomer to Australia I've been amazed by the number of government handouts that ALL Australians get. Here in NSW we get back-to-school grants, then there were the whopping stimulus payments, the private school subsidies, the private health subsidies, the have-a-baby and get-your-kids immunised grants ... But when things go pear shaped and the government asks Aussies to put a few bucks in to help reconstruct the devastated areas, it's like 'who farted?' Mateship? Ironically, so very lacking around Australia Day.

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  • 38. At 10:57am on 28 Jan 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    Peter D - what is the differences in terms of outcomes/timeframes/costs between NBN and Lib/Country proposal?

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  • 39. At 11:41am on 28 Jan 2011, PeterD wrote:

    38 Cassandra

    I can't recall the exact details right now but figures were presented during the last election campaign and the cost differential was significant Also, grandiose, all-embracing governmental projects have a bad history of going wrong in terms cost, outcomes or time, or often some combination thereof. The last such example in Australia was the Collins submarine program plus the add-ons.

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  • 40. At 12:30pm on 28 Jan 2011, kilonewton wrote:

    @DoomOnYou, Wivenhoe Dam did indeed mitigate the scale of the floods. Forecasts were that the flood was going to be higher than '74, it wasn't. At its peak, SEQWater was releasing approx 1.2 Sydharbs of water into the river from the Dam, 2+ Sydharbs were flowing into the lake from upstream. They also managed to reduce flows such that peaks from other tributaries downstream of the dam did not combine with the peak from Wivenhoe. Not including flood storage, Wivenhoe holds approx 2.2 Sydharbs at full supply level. The graph in SEQWater's website shows the massive spike.
    http://www.seqwater.com.au/public/dam-levels

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  • 41. At 12:44pm on 28 Jan 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    Dear Stirling,

    Nick seems to be at breakneck speed here...I have read about cuts to the BBC and that may pehaps have spurred him to churn out his blogs faster than last year (the internet marches on)...or, with the new bairn and night feeds and all, changes of nappies (I will not use the Americanism "diapers")etc...he has the perfect excuse to "escape" to the the keyboard, with a throwaway line to Mrs Nick on the midnight "Darling, I have to get another blog into the ether".
    Perhaps even "Stiff upper lip darling...it's for the BBC".
    Nick, we love you and your blog : )
    Stirling has raised a most interesting question...
    "Greg, you may have too fixed an idea of the definition of 'class-system', i.e. that of Britain. I'm talking capitalism. it can't produce only winners. What do we call the 'losers'? Battlers? What about the 'winners'? The know-it-all elite, perhaps? You expect me to believe the residents of a town affected by redundancies regard the monopoly owners as great Australian success stories and see the decisions made about their lives as neccessary for making more money, regardless of who gains?
    I'm not saying it's worse than anywhere else, but you're fooling yourself if you believe everyone is born with the same life opportunities just because they won't be judged on their accent".
    Yes, well put dear internet friend.
    Hmmmmm...usually it is said we are products of our genes and environment.
    And to that I would add...a family background where self improvement is "breathable"...and a burning desire to learn, improve, discover, understand etc etc...that ability to "rise above one's station"...although I loathe the concept of one's "station".
    There are other aspects as well...nutrition in early years...adequate Iodine intake...if Iodine intake is inadequate during pregnancy or the first three years of a child's life, IQ will be down by at least ten points.
    So what else can we do?
    In a previous post I mentioned I was "honed" during the Whitlam PMship...and enjoyed the description of people like myself as "Bollinger Socialists" : )
    My "class", education, IQ, father's profession, education etc etc led me to the Liberal Party in Australia...in fact I was "President" of my local branch of the Young Liberals at 19.
    However, I believe there comes a time in many "lives" to...embrace, if not Socialism, but rather an understanding that you have been to a certain extent "blessed" with the ability to compete in this tough and dour dog eat dog world and therefore, can emerge, again God willing, with "enough smarts" to GET something for yourself and your family, after all we must be able to afford a computer to be part of this community.
    Monetary success helps.
    Stirling, you have rasied such interesting questions and debate over the past year while we have swapped opinions from one side of the world to the other...thank ye : )
    PeterD...you took exception to my post the last time we "crossed swords" on/in Nick's blog...but I also referred to you at that time as my "old sparring partner"...suggest we "agree to disagree" on various aspects of Nick's blogs...and perhaps agree on others...perhaps : )
    Now I disagree with your thought to pull back on the Broadband rollout : )
    And BTW...the flood levy...come on guys it's peanuts.
    Tony Abbott should very carefeul here...you can NOT object to everything!


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  • 42. At 1:26pm on 28 Jan 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    Sorry...I was running on overdrive during my previous post and forgot to mention...the more you are able to COPE with life, and the more success you are able to obtain, the more you should with humility thank Providence (in the Benjamin Franklin context) for that which you have received...and share it.

    Also, you can of course object to EVERYTHING, however I feel Gilbert and Sullivan have already covered that : )

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  • 43. At 1:52pm on 28 Jan 2011, Sharon wrote:

    Thankyou Greg Warner, I did enjoy reading your prose. But I must object to your last line of post 41. No where in this blog will you find anyone commenting that they do not wish to help their fellow Australians in a time of crisis. But there is a significant objection to Julia Gillard's draconian attempt to "mandate" generosity, while simultaneously maintaining her vanity project - the NBN. So who "needs" super-fast broadband when your fellow Australians don't have a habitable home to live in? I suggest the business case for NBN won't be harmed one jot by postpoining it a couple of years. Assuming of course the NBN has a credible business case to begin with! May I suggest instead the Flood Levy is really a NBN levy in disguise?

    I agree most with EalingWelsh's comment 15, I studied urban planning in Brisbane and my fellow graduates and I worked in a futile experience called Development Control in Queensland. After a couple of years I packed my bags and moved to the UK. The Integrated Planning Act in Queensland reads well on paper but is a joke in practice.

    So for everyone calculating their Flood Levy payments, of which the bulk will be heading "north of the border" (to quote Anna Bligh), it will interest you to know the money will be spent putting community infrastructure back in exactly the flood-prone place it was first built. And Queensland will be right back to where we started, in 1974!

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  • 44. At 2:35pm on 28 Jan 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    Hi Sharon/Dear Sharon/Sharon,

    Thank you for "enjoying my prose" as I also enjoy your insightful post.
    You are right..."No where in this blog will you find anyone commenting that they do not wish to help their fellow Australians in a time of crisis".

    But we know...we DO know that Abbott and his ilk are opposing the "flood levy"...news is ALL embracing now...the Uzbekistan Times is as relevant as the BBC in this inernet world of ours today...Egypt has shut down the internet.

    Also I find it very sad that you would say "simultaneously maintaining her vanity project - the NBN".

    Sad...because your comment is historically not correct...this was an issue/policy before Ms Gillard became PM...surely.

    And also sad because connection to the entire world of thought, opinion, possibility, even enlightenment should not be denied to any citizen of this so brilliant nation, nor any people of any nation inhabiting this planet.

    It gets back to what I was saying to Stirling earlier...whatever barriers there may be to the education of all our children, and perhaps the enlightenment of some or many of them, beyond class, or education, or region, or accent or parental background, EVERYTHING must be done by an ENLIGHTENED Government to ensure that EVERY child has the opportunity to prosper.

    Same for ALL citizens...if an Australian citizen comes up with a brilliant invention, surely he or she should be able to search VENTURE CAPITALISTS on the net...or...send his best to his/hert aunty on her birthday.

    You can throw your sabots into the machinery...you can support the Luddites to smash the Spinning Jennies...but you will lose...like King Knut facing the incoming tide...as Dylan sang..."The Times They Are A'Changing".

    Never was it more true than at the start of this second decade of the 21st Century.






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  • 45. At 9:35pm on 28 Jan 2011, VpinOz wrote:

    37. Mick - you obviously missed the pictures of those volunteers helping clean up the flood-affected homes in Brisbane and the amount of money donated by people. While it's been said over and over and over ad infinitum on Australian TV and radio by most people commenting, we ARE NOT against the government giving money to help those in need, we ARE against being given a new tax. We were promised 'no new taxes' by this government and to call it a 'one-off levy' fools no-one. There must always be money put aside for disasters - just look at what Australia has sent to Pakistan and Indonesia recently - so we are saying take a billion out of that fund - NOT a new tax.

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  • 46. At 10:21am on 29 Jan 2011, tarquin wrote:

    DanNZ

    'Donations per man, woman and child in Australia: $3.69
    For everything else there's MasterCard apparently...'

    In a month, mate, in a month - it's pretty much the same value as the tax, although I doubt it would have the legs to last all year, but then, would they need it that long

    anyway, the point remains - we're already taxed, we're already paying for nonsense, the government shouldn't be wasting money on extravagant non-starters and then dipping further into our pockets when a real issue arises

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