Yesterday as north Queenslanders were trying to fortify their homes against the pending onslaught of cyclone Yasi, or taking shelter in evacuation centres where they would spend a sleepless night hoping that there would be something left of their town this morning, Tony Abbott released a letter asking for donations to campaign against the government’s flood levy.
Not only is this crass and insensitive, but also reeks of hypocrisy in the extreme.
Let’s make no mistake about this. Abbott’s objection to the flood levy has nothing to do with rebuilding Queensland after the floods last month. It is an attempt to get the national broadband network scrapped and for the government to slash funding to other infrastructure projects so that he can use a projected reduced budget surplus as a political weapon against the government’s economic management.
This is gutter politics at a time when we need our political leaders to rise above partisan differences and lead. But then Tony Abbott is not a leader. He snatched the Liberal leadership from Malcolm Turnbull by a single vote after Turnbull’s support within the party weakened with his trenchant support for the government’s emissions trading scheme. Then, puffing out his chest, Abbott strutted around the country declaring that “climate change is crap”. Abbott is not a leader, he is a schoolyard bully.
As a minister in the Howard government Abbott supported the imposition of seven different temporary levies (listed at the bottom of this post) imposed on the tax-paying public to fund various expenditures, starting with the gun buyback levy in 1996. How is the flood levy different to Howard’s levies? It’s not. Governments impose extra charges on tax payers as required and the flood levy will amount to less than a cup of coffee a week for most tax payers.
Gillard’s flood levy is not a perfect solution by any means. The devastation that daylight will reveal in north Queensland this morning is certain to run into billions of dollars. An increased frequency in extreme weather events is going to have a huge impact on national infrastructure. Roads, railways, power stations, public buildings, ports, schools, airports – these have all been damaged, in some cases destroyed, over the past month through the floods and now the cyclone. This is the point Abbott seems to have missed. When people make a donation to a recovery fund, their money goes to assisting families rebuild and restart their lives. It helps to replace possessions lost in the flood and put a roof back over people’s heads. The flood levy will assist the state government to rebuild the infrastructure that keeps the state – and the nation – running.
Abbott’s letter is instructive in its last line before the PS asking for money. He invokes the image of ‘hardworking Australians, struggling to meet their own family budgets’. He then asks those same struggling Australians to give him money so that he can ‘campaign’ against the government’s flood levy. So, you can give a couple of dollars a week to the government to help put a chunk of Queensland about the size of France and Germany combined and which provides a considerable amount of your food back on the road to recovery, or, Tony says, you can give him your money so he can stop that from happening.
That this bully came within the width of a cigarette paper from being Prime Minister is truly frightening. If he is acting on the advice of political advisors they should be sacked immediately. If he is acting alone he should be sacked by his party.
Levies imposed by the Howard government with thanks to The Gutter Trash blog:
1996- Gun Levy
1997- Gun Levy
1998- No Levies
1999- Stevedoring Levy
2000- Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-East Timor Levy
2001 – Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-Ansett Levy
2002- Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-Ansett Levy
2003- Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-Ansett Levy-Sugar Levy
2004-Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-Sugar Levy
2005- Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-Sugar Levy
2006- Stevedoring Levy-Milk Levy-Sugar Levy
2007- Milk Levy