Independent lashes Abbott on flood levy
Michael Bachelard and Natalie Craig
January 30, 2011
RURAL independent Tony Windsor has lashed out at Tony Abbott, accusing him of playing a ”petty … game” with the tragic circumstances of flood victims and trying to use them as a ”skateboard to government”.
Mr Windsor expressed his anger in an interview with The Sunday Age after the Opposition Leader yesterday stepped up his personal attacks on Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the flood levy and suggested the independents ”start to reconsider their decision” to support Labor.
”A prime minister who’s unconvincing when responding to a natural disaster is unlikely to solve the much more politically and administratively complex problems,” Mr Abbott argued.
But Mr Windsor told Mr Abbott to ”mind his own business”.
The votes of the four lower house independents and Greens MP Adam Bandt, as well as the independents and Greens in the Senate, will be crucial to Labor’s attempt to introduce a $1.8 billion levy to help rebuild after the Queensland floods.
None of the independents have yet announced whether they will support it, though Queensland independent Bob Katter has said he would under strict conditions on spending.
Mr Windsor favours a permanent disaster fund.
A number of cross-benchers, including Mr Bandt and independent senator Nick Xenophon, will be briefed by the government this week.
Mr Windsor said Mr Abbott ”might be able to order his underlings in the Liberal Party around, but he’s not my master. I’ll make up my own mind about what happens.
”This is an issue of tragedy that we’re talking about, tragic circumstances, and to try to use that as a skateboard to government of itself vindicates the choice we made [to support Labor],” Mr Windsor said.
”I find it quite extraordinary that he’d be running that sort of line; it’s a gross misjudgment.
”People need help. And to play a petty individual game on this vindicates our choice. We’ll deal with the government with any issue that we have in terms of the details of the proposals. Tony Abbott is not one of my consultants in better government.”
Mr Bandt said the government should consider deferring for 12 months a planned tax cut for big business. This would raise money to save some of the environmental programs, particularly for solar energy, that Ms Gillard has slated for cuts. He said he would propose this to the government during his briefing.
Mr Abbott said Ms Gillard had been ”wooden” in her response to the floods and had shown a ”tin ear since”.
But, ”in a spirit of national unity”, he said he would sit down and help the government find $1.8 billion in extra savings.
He identified $2 billion in the Building Australia Fund, $500 million for the National Broadband Network and at least $1 billion of Building the Education Revolution money, as well as funds allocated for the water buyback as potential sources for funding.
Two tax experts told The Sunday Age yesterday the proposed flood levy was better structured than previous levies introduced by the Howard government.
TaxWatch convenor Julian Disney said it would be fairer to use the budget to pay for infrastructure repairs, but the proposed levy was modest and structured fairly.
He rejected Mr Abbott’s claim that a new tax was ”the opposite of mateship”. ”That is a remarkably inappropriate statement … a dreadful political philosophy,” Professor Disney said.
Grattan Institute economist Saul Eslake said the ”progressive” scale meant the cost of the recovery would be spread fairly across income brackets.
Claims that the levy would hurt economic growth by discouraging retail spending were ”laughable”, he said.
”The $1.8 billion, it sounds like a lot of money to take out of the economy. But in an economy of $1.5 trillion, it represents a bit over 0.1 per cent of GDP.”
■ Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten has said he will legislate to stop insurance companies bamboozling policyholders with complicated flood clauses if crisis talks with heads of industry this week fail to reach agreement.
Mr Shorten is meeting insurance chiefs in Sydney this week.
With JESS WRIGHT
Media Sourced :theage.com.au