When we said “poor Queenslanders” we didn’t mean we’d be happy to pay to help rebuild

Extraordinary, the very week of Australia Day, how pathetic some people are being about the idea of paying a levy to help rebuild Queensland after the floods.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he strongly opposed the flood levy, and the clean-up could be paid for by spending cuts.

…which he refused to specify, other than abandoning any Labor program that he’s duty bound to whinge about. (No, no, 3G wireless is a broadband network! Really it is!)

“If the Rudd-Gillard Government hadn’t so recklessly squandered the surplus left to it by the Howard government, it would now be in a position to respond effectively to the floods without a new tax,” Mr Abbott writes in today’s Herald Sun.

PLEASE HERALD SUN READERS DON’T REMEMBER WE JUST HAD A GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SURPLUS SITUATION QUICK LOOK OVER THERE.

“Families that are already struggling with higher grocery and electricity costs are going to be hit again by tax increases.”

Families on less than $50k each won’t pay the tax at all, and those on an average income will pay about $90. I know! To Queenslanders! Isn’t it outrageous? Why can’t it be paid for by making life even harder for the poor, eh?


Readers of Brisbane’s Courier Mail are happy to chip in.

Mr Abbott said people who had made donations, volunteered for the clean-up, and even flood victims, would be forced to pay the tax.

No, Tony Abbott is quite wrong: flood victims will not pay the tax. Anyone who received the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (which was not means-tested) will not have to pay the tax. (I think the wealthier ones should, but the ALP’s decided to make ALL flood victims immune.)

As for those who made donations, or helped clean up – well, Mr Abbott has a point. Naturally those who cared enough about Queenslanders’ plight to send money voluntarily or help clean up will be absolutely outraged at joining in with everyone else in funding the recovery. Making a donation or helping cleanup is, of course, only done in the expectation of not having to do anything else and pre-empting any possible levy.

No, seriously, we actually shouldn’t have needed to make donations at all – we as a country should have a properly-funded disaster relief fund paid for out of our taxes such that our fellow citizens can rely on government support in such times without relying on charity. Charity is optional – making sure every Australian is properly looked after in such times shouldn’t be. But, failing that, this levy after the fact is the least we can do – if you didn’t think it’s a good cause, then why did you make so much noise about caring about the flood victims at the time? Put your money where your mouth is.

The programs being cut to maintain the surplus are another thing entirely, of course – if they were good and important programs in the first place, we should cop a short-term deficit to pay for them, not throw them aside. Surpluses are NOT the primary determinant of “good economic management”, and it’s high time Labor tackled that lie head-on.

UPDATE: Strikethrough paragraph removed because it made the rest of the post look like an update.

Elsewhere – Tory Shepherd at the Punch declares that “By all that’s unholy, Australians hate paying taxes” and suggests a reason for the feeling of outrage:

Our taxes pay for the Government to take care of people – through unemployment, social services and universal healthcare. So we assume it’s all taken care of already. What a rude shock then, to work out there apparently isn’t enough elasticity in the system to take care of this. We feel like they’ve pissed our hard-earned cash up against the wall.

We thought it was all sorted.

It should have been. Problem is, we keep demanding tax cuts so it isn’t. I suppose the same people who whinge about every tax are shocked when they discover there’s no national dental scheme. But those taxes I avoided paying and demanded the government not charge me were supposed to pay for that!

Meanwhile, apparently we object to being “forced” to look after each other. Those of us who’d happily help the flood victims voluntarily are apparently outraged at the thought of the uncharitable being compelled to do likewise, if you believe the line being fed to us.

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30 responses to “When we said “poor Queenslanders” we didn’t mean we’d be happy to pay to help rebuild

  1. There are other more rational reasons for not having a levy now.

    It may not be the best time to add another tax burden when Australia might be about to enter a period of negative economic growth. Sure, set a levy, just set it once Australia as a whole has recovered somewhat.

    – a somewhat interesting alternative take

  2. It’s not much of a tax burden, considering. Is $100 (or, in the case of the poorest 40%, nothing) really going to whack us back into recession?

    And we might just as easily be about to have positive economic growth from all the stimulus from the rebuilding.

    It would be nice to know precisely where that $1.8billion was going, though.

  3. I’ve been surprised by the negative reaction to this. Kochie’s poll this morning was 97/3% against. Harsh stuff.

    I was just saying to my offspring last night that really $90.00 is a fairly small price to pay considering the severity of the floods.

  4. Splatterbottom

    This tax is grossly unjust. Bob Brown has already identified the real culprit responsible for floods, and the coal industry must pay for its sins. If there had been a drought, they would have been responsible for that as well.

  5. Hey helping out is one thing, but we’re talking about Queenslanders here.

    Bloody Queenslanders. No way. Bloody queenslanders.

    No really if I earned enough to pay this levy I’d happily pay it. Cos I don’t I might just donate what someone on 50G pays anyway on top of everything else.

    No-one I know involved in any of the clean ups in Qld or here thinks that should make them immune to the levy, tho most of us don’t earn enough anyway.

  6. SB, sarcasm isn’t really that hard to detect. And of course he has a point either way, it’s not that hard to understand. You used to like the Greens. Sometimes I don’t know who you are any more.

  7. The day of the Toowoomba “inland tsunami”, I chipped in $1000 to the Premier’s Flood Relief appeal because I felt so strongly that people needed assistance. Later that week my own house was threatened by the flood peak, but narrowly missed. Other people in the surrounding streets of my suburb have lost everything.

    And now right-wing morons in the Opposition and media want to play politics with the rebuilding effort? Screw the surplus. Bring on the levies. The heart and soul has just been torn out of Queensland, with lives, houses, and infrastructure ruined. Anyone who moans about paying an $90 extra on their taxes needs to be chained to the low tide point on the Brisbane City gauge.

    This is what government is *for*.

  8. “Those of us who’d happily help the flood victims voluntarily are apparently outraged at the thought of the uncharitable being compelled to do likewise, if you believe the line being fed to us.”

    Don’t believe it.

    I was just talking to someone who spent 5 days in Brissie hosing down streets, driveways and houses and cleaning gutters etc.

    He’s more outraged at the people whining about the levy.

  9. Jeremy wrote:
    Problem is, we keep demanding tax cuts…..

    Precisely! The number of people who pay little or no personal tax is burgeoning. And I’m not referring merely to the greedy mega rich like Kerry Packer who treated paying personal tax as optional.

    The levy is not sizeable, has a sunset clause and is targeted at people with the capacity to pay.

    Where has the fair go spirit gone? When we’d gladly lend a helping hand to those in need.

    Apparently it was proper for the Tories to impose a levy, as they did with the gun buy back, but improper when Labour does it to assist people who have lost everything. What a mega creep Abbott and his band of phonies are.

    Maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have to impose a levy if we had a government (any government) that had the guts to do something about the black economy and abolish negative gearing – at least not allow people to write off losses against other income. Oh and reimpose death duties.

  10. The amount is small and the cause is good, but there are underlying structural problems. Moral hazard is being ignored, for starters. And it highlights how government action – and just as importantly, the expectation of government action – crowds out voluntary civil responses over the long term. All those who donated time and money are being told they have to give more. Will they be less likely to jump in next time, expecting that they’ll pay through the tax system anyway? That lack of charity can then be pointed to as the reason why a tax is necessary, and thus the ratchet effect in government taxing and spending continues.

    “PLEASE HERALD SUN READERS DON’T REMEMBER WE JUST HAD A GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SURPLUS SITUATION QUICK LOOK OVER THERE.”

    Jeremy, it’s becoming more widely accepted that Australia went overboard in the reaction to the GFC, and spent far too much. I hate to say it, but the Liberals have a point – if in power, they would have spent less and had more on hand for real emergencies.

  11. “All those who donated time and money are being told they have to give more. Will they be less likely to jump in next time, expecting that they’ll pay through the tax system anyway? That lack of charity can then be pointed to as the reason why a tax is necessary, and thus the ratchet effect in government taxing and spending continues.”

    But this sort of thing should be covered by our taxes. We shouldn’t need go give separately to charity to cover disaster relief. It shouldn’t be optional.

    It’s like relying on charity to feed the homeless. That’s bloody government’s responsibility!

    I’d be more than happy for us to reduce our reliance on charity in favour of consistently meeting our obligations as a society.

    “Jeremy, it’s becoming more widely accepted that Australia went overboard in the reaction to the GFC”

    It is? On one side of politics, perhaps.

  12. Screw the surplus. Bring on the levies.

    The levies are actually being implemented to protect the surplus. “Screw the surplus” is pretty much the opposite of what the Gillard Government is doing.

    The reality is that both sides are playing politics on this. As Jeremy pointed out several posts ago there’s nothing the current government fears more (with good cause) than being accused of failing to deliver their promised surplus. It’s time that this idiotic obsession with surplus economics was confronted head-on by a politician with some guts.

  13. the progressive company “flood levy” of 0.5% has also been met with outrage….

  14. “It’s time that this idiotic obsession with surplus economics was confronted head-on by a politician with some guts.”

    Agreed Mondo, but it won’t be Gillard. The following quote from a 3AW interview this morning speaks for itself (quite apart from the awful syntax):

    “What the right thing to do by the national economy in those circumstances is for the Government to deliver a surplus and reduce the footprint of government on the economy. That’s the right thing to do by this nation and I’m going to do it.”

  15. Good God bloods – she sounds like a Tea Party activist.

  16. “The levies are actually being implemented to protect the surplus. “Screw the surplus” is pretty much the opposite of what the Gillard Government is doing.”

    I think we should do both: screw the surplus *and* raise a levy. Whatever it takes.

    Every day when I drive to work, I pass piles of debris where people have stripped their floors and walls and put them on the side-walk, even two weeks after the Mud Army did the heavy lifting. Many of those families will need to go back into mortgage debt for years to rebuild the insides of the shells that used to be their houses.

    I now have to drive further away to get groceries because every supermarket, greengrocer, butcher, and baker in my suburb were destroyed and it will be months before any of them can return to business, if ever.

    IGA? Gone. Doctor’s Surgery? Gone. Pharmacy? Gone. Newsagent? Gone. Mum-and-Dad Thai restaurant for Cheap Tuesdays take-away? Gone. Best coffee shop in Brisbane, 2009? Gone. Arty cafe with live music on Sundays? Gone.

    That’s a lot of economic activity that won’t happen for a very long time. A lot of people currently unemployed. And a lot of middle class families financially ruined. And that’s not the worst affected suburb in Brisbane.

  17. “All those who donated time and money are being told they have to give more. Will they be less likely to jump in next time, expecting that they’ll pay through the tax system anyway?”

    All those?

    You can’t speak for “all those” who donated time and money, cos most would do it again tomorrow (especially the time bit) cos its one of those times people feel their lives are actually accomplishing something good.

  18. Splatterbottom

    Bloods: “sarcasm isn’t really that hard to detect. And of course he has a point either way, it’s not that hard to understand. You used to like the Greens. Sometimes I don’t know who you are any more.

    I don’t think it is sarcasm to restate exactly the intended meaning of someone:

    “It’s the single biggest cause – burning coal – for climate change and it must take its major share of responsibility for the weather events we are seeing unfolding now,” he said in Hobart today.

    “We know that the oceans around Australia are at record high temperatures, and that’s causing the moisture in the air which is leading to these catastrophic floods.

    “It is costing billions of dollars, besides the pain, the anguish, the loss of life, the destruction and it should not be left to ordinary taxpayers to bear the full brunt of that.”

    Also I haven’t changed. I still have a soft spot for Bob. However the Greens have gone down a bit in my estimation with the rise to prominence of some unreconstructed Marxists in their ranks.

  19. I think we should do both: screw the surplus *and* raise a levy. Whatever it takes.

    We don’t have to do both – that’s the point.

    It’s certainly terrible that many have been affected by these floods – nobody argues that they do not need and deserve our help. But a “whatever it takes” mentality here, while emotionally satisfying, is aknee-jerk reaction.

    By the way: what about the victims of the flooding in Victoria – is this levy going to be used to help them rebuild also?

  20. You can’t speak for “all those” who donated time and money

    To be fair jules, that’s not what Jarrah was doing. He was simply asking whether if disaster levies become the norm it would have an impact on charitable donations.

  21. mondo rock wrote:

    By the way: what about the victims of the flooding in Victoria – is this levy going to be used to help them rebuild also?

    Yes!

    Get over it you whiners who aren’t prepared to forgo your weekly latte for twelve months. Sheesh!

  22. “But this sort of thing should be covered by our taxes. We shouldn’t need go give separately to charity to cover disaster relief.”

    As it happens, I agree with you. Disaster relief is clearly a core function of government, even the smaller government I advocate.

    I wasn’t suggesting QLD be rebuilt on Salvos donations, I was pointing out how the crowding out and ratchet process work, using this as an example. This is a real, and by its nature growing, problem.

    “You can’t speak for “all those” who donated time and money,”

    You need to read my comment again, because I’m obviously not speaking for them. I’m asking questions about unintended consequences.

  23. “But a “whatever it takes” mentality here, while emotionally satisfying, is a knee-jerk reaction.”

    Empathy is an emotion, from which true kindness follows. Empathy was shown in spades post-flood. But now the airwaves and political response to the crisis are being dominated by the enemies of empathy.

    My messages were intended to point out the real human people who will suffer because of this right-wing gotcha nonsense. The window is being opened wider to make it acceptable to resent the victims and deny them future care and support. Emotions matter.

  24. Am I on permanent moderation?

  25. Mondo I think I misread his comment actually. It seems he said “Will they” (a question) instead of “They will” and it completely changes the meaning of what he said.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    Sorry Jarrah.

    It does seem to be something people are pushing tho. I have heard Abbott mention something similar, and he made ref to volunteers. FFS Abbott is sposed to be a member of thew RFS. What he said goes against the ethic of the organisation.

    I haven’t seen Brisbane but I have seen photos of the clean up there and some of the damage and its quite phenomenal, and if that ain’t enough supposedly they don’t actually do justice to the damage. Thats in one part of Brisbane.

    The only issue I have with a flood levy is that its for Qld only when these floods were spread across the east coast. There are people round here who have lost out too, tho not on the scale of some, especially those who lost loved ones. And things seem bad in victoria.

    I dunno if you lot remember the Black Saturday fires, but flood victims in Queensland that year, while the fires were raging were asking that the donations they received be forwarded to the fire victims in Victoria.

    I doubt any sort of disaster levy will make people less willing to donate when its necessary. It might mean less donations are necessary if its done properly. And this amount of money is stuff all.

    “All Hat no Cattle” :p is on the 7.30 report right now supporting the concept, and bringing up the ’09 floods. I didn’t know people were still up that creek up there, but apparently there are people who still haven’t recovered from the 09 floods. These are the same people that sent some of the donations and support they got to Victoria after the fires.

    If they haven’t got the support they need its a disgrace and yes they should get some of that support. I’m glad to see Katter recognising the necessity of “socialism”.

  26. You’re not on moderation, Jarrah. It’s just WordPress being weird.

  27. jordanrastrick

    To me the reaction to this levy is absolutely bonkers. I mean its the opposition’s job to whinge about it I suppose, but the fact that so many people are buying into it?

    To address a few of the points raised here:

    @flyscan: Unless the China bubble bursts, we’re not going back into recession any time soon. And that’s a bridge we need to cross when we come to it.

    @PJH: I’m pretty sure that sunrise poll was a good ol’ ACA style phone in if you feel like it one. Which is to say, self-selected utterly unscientific horsecrap.

    @Jarrah, while I buy the crowding-out argument as a general problem with some aspects of a welfare state, we also seem to be in agreement that this particular case is one of the most justified forms of government spending, and so surely the argument is at its absolutely least applicable.

    You also mention Moral Hazard, but the levy is not being used to fund the uninsured. That’s what the Premier’s Relief Fund is about (so if you have an issue, its essentially with mainly private philanthropy). The $5.6 billion is for rebuilding government infrastructure. Roads, rail, sewerage, power lines, etc. There’s no moral hazard question whatsoever, except maybe in vertical fiscal terms between the Qld and Federal governments. Which hardly matters.

    @Jeremy: According to a commenter on that absurd punch piece, there is, in fact, a regular natural disaster government relief fund. We spent it all already:

    It’s in the order of $10billion and called the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA). Problem is, it’s been a big (financial) year for disasters and what’s left after flooding in Victoria, NSW, WA, Queensland (before December) and fires in WA won’t cover the rebuilding in Queensland. Disasters cannot be planned and therefore the amount we set aside can’t be accurately planned either. Some years there are billions left in June.

    @Mondo, uniquerhys: Surpluses in a growing economy are a good thing. They give the government leeway to spend up in a recession, ala our GFC stimulus. You can’t run modest deficits in good times and large deficits in bad times indefinitely, or else you end up like Japan. That’s got nothing much to do with progressivism either; the government could tax twice or half as much and spend twice or half as much, and the argument would still apply. Likewise, the flood doesn’t change it. Yes its horrible, yes its devastating, but in macroscopic terms on the scale of the Australian economy a few billion in repair bills and half a percent hit to GDP doesn’t count as sufficiently “bad times” to change our fiscal trajectory that radically. Admittedly the government is going into surplus slightly faster than probably necessary for political reasons, but the basic plan is highly sound.

    I don’t want to sound cold-hearted; I fully believe all the money and more that’s going towards the floods should be. But Gillard is right; it should come from spending cuts and/or taxes, not the surplus.

    @SB: Semi-justified digs at Bob Brown aside, as the resident shall we say “non-lefty” here, I’d be very interested to know what your actual views on the levy are. No one could accuse you of being an ALP stooge, but I’m assuming it seems more or less and sensible to you as it does to me?

    @Anyone I missed: Its not that I don’t love you, I just came late to the comments and haven’t got time to re-read it again to pick up anymore threads :-)

  28. The only problem with the levy is that it’s just pointless homage to the idea of a surplus.

    The sad reality from a political perspective is that they’ve decided it’s easier to deal with a levy, than slaughter the surplus sacred cow.

  29. Nice succinct summary, ‘nawagadj’

    Regrettably surpluses have become almost the Holy Grail politically. So it’s unsurprising that any government in todays political environment places it high on the agenda.

    However, for heavens sake, it is to have a one year sunrise clause, is targeted at those with a capacity to pay and amounts to not much more than the cost of a latte once a week.

    And how come it’s such a dreadful impost this time but was o.k when the government Abbott was apart of used it in the gun buy back? Hypocrisy spelled large.

  30. narcoticmusing

    I’m terribly confused about the use of a latte as a measure for those whinging about the levy, it was my understanding that latte sipping was reserved the left who are generally in support of the levy… I for one am happy to buy a latte per week for my Qld buddies as long as the levy doesn’t exclude Victorians. This isn’t a condition per se, but I don’t recall a federal disaster fund or levy for the Victorian bushfires that killed almost 200 people. Nor for the Vic heat wave earlier that killed 200 people. Nor do I hear bupkiss about Victorians again in terms of the floods, other than Victorians will (along with NSW) disproportionately pay for Qld. Again, I’m happy to chip in, but other than charity there wasn’t much of a chip in for the bushfires from the Feds, it is pretty much all Vic State funds.

    So as a Victorian, I can see why some Victorians would resent a Qld-flood tax when. It starts right from the taxation base – we do not get the same as we pay in tax back to the state (either does NSW). This is fundamentally sound to a lefty like me (redistribution of weatlh) but not ok to many Victorians. To many Victorians (and NSW no doubt) they feel screwed over by this. The whole ‘punishing success’ mantra. Then we see our own state flooding and no one seems to give a toss. Many of these regions only just rebuilt from devestating bushfires – note the BS (an apt acroynm no?) Royal Commission forgot about the Feds lack of action and layed the blame only on the State. The view that starts to form at the populus level is that, apparently, the Feds only have to pitch in in Qld and not Vic. Now imagine how fair everyone thinks that is. How much of a ‘fair go’ is it?

    Again, not where I’m at, but I understand the sentiment and concern.
    My primary concern relates to how uselss the Cth are in purchasing goods and services. They couldn’t buy sex in a brothel (regardless of which party was trying) and yet the country would still get screwed.

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