He recognises that the Federal Government, as in other areas, is the insurer of last resort.
The Independent Member for New England, Tony Windsor today voted against the imposition of a levy on the Australian taxpayer to raise $1.8B to fund the reconstruction of disaster affected regions of Australia but believes the need for a Natural Disaster Fund is now clearly established and the people of Queensland and Victoria need assistance.
Mr Windsor told the Parliament:
“There are a number of ways of doing this (funding the reconstruction). One way the government is suggesting is to impose a levy to pick up part of the bill. If there is another disaster tomorrow, do we strike another levy to pick up part of the bill? I think not. Other ways of doing it are either to run a deficit or to pick it up in the budgetary process. I would have opted for the last two rather than the levy. Therefore, I will not be supporting the legislation before the House today.”
Mr Windsor argued that “As an economy, we are the envy of most economies in the world, which leads me to this issue that we are debating today. I cannot see why one of the best economies in the world has to strike a levy to find funds to assist people in a natural disaster….. given the economy that we have got and given the way in which we have been able to come through the global financial crisis.”
He continued, “Over the last decade we have had these machinations around surplus and deficit. For an economy of our size and scale and because of its health, there is nothing wrong with being in deficit for a short period of time. We did it to overcome a crisis. We can argue about the administration of some of those moneys, but the fact is that the whole intent of the massive amount of money that was spent was to keep the economy pumped up when the private sector had left the building for a short time, and it achieved that end. The private sector is back and the economy is running again. We did that through deficit budgeting. No-one suggested that that was the wrong thing to do at that time—there was a crisis. There has now been another crisis—a crisis in one of our states. I do not see why the same logic does not apply again.”
Mr Windsor concluded: “The final thing I would like to say is that the people of Queensland do need assistance. The governments of Queensland and local governments, in my view, probably did not do their jobs correctly in the past in terms of preparing for a disaster. There have been arguments about the rate at which you could insure against particularly cyclone damage, because that part of the world is very prone to cyclones. But I think we have to make sure that when we work through this process, all of the state governments are involved or the national government can strike a national scheme where there will be some degree of cross-subsidisation in terms of the risk assessments of disasters in various states.
“It is important that at the end of this process we are not back here next year having this same debate about whether we strike a flood levy to fund a disaster. We have to actually define what an extreme, extraordinary event is, and then have a set of guidelines that kick into gear on day one that assist with whatever it is—the reconstruction process, the assistance to individuals or whatever it is under the guidelines that are struck. But to have this ad hocarrangement that we have had in the past is something that does need to be redressed.”