Thursday, 10 February 2011
Questions without Notice
Australian Natural Disasters
My question is to Senator Wong, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Can the minister outline to the Senate the economic and fiscal impact of the recent natural disasters across Australia and the capacity of the government to respond in the current economic conditions?
I thank Senator Marshall for his question. As we know, the economic devastation caused by the natural disasters we have seen in recent weeks in Queensland with the floods, in Far North Queensland with the cyclone, and also the flooding in Victoria and New South Wales, will obviously have a significant effect on the economy. As the Treasurer has said, the January floods alone are estimated to knock around half a percentage point from growth in this financial year, most of that in the March quarter. This government has made a very sound assessment of what we need to do to ensure we give communities in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales the certainty they need to rebuild their homes, their lives and their communities after these natural disasters. We have put forward a very sensible, responsible package based on $5.6 billion of rebuild costs for Queensland and other affected states including Victoria.
This is a government that has approached this in a fiscally disciplined manner. It has made hard decisions to pay for the recovery. Two-thirds of the package is funded by spending cuts and one-third by a modest levy. The contrast with those opposite could not be clearer. The government is focused on delivering a responsible and disciplined package; the opposition is focused on fighting its own internal battles over a half-baked and entirely inadequate package. Even worse, we know that in the other place the opposition is focused on playing procedural games to slow down the consideration of the levy legislation. We say to the opposition: it is time to stop playing politics, so focus on supporting the recovery and the rebuild. We should pass this legislation and give Queensland and the other states the certainty they deserve. (Time expired)
As I said, we in the government have put forward a very sensible package and a very tough package. It cuts spending. Two-thirds of it is funded through spending cuts and a third through a modest levy. We have committed to bringing the budget back to surplus.
I will take that interjection, Senator Abetz. Let us remember what we see from the opposition. They have outsourced fiscal policy to the National Party. That is what happened today in this chamber. Where are the economic dries in the Liberal Party? Today they sponsored legislation that will add $300 million plus to the budget black hole that they brought in with no offsets—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Honourable senators interjecting—
The significant challenge is the irresponsibility and political opportunism of those opposite. You would have to ask the senators on that side from communities that have been affected how they go home and justify the fact that they are focused on what they want in here, not on what their communities need.
Senator Macdonald should go home and explain to Queenslanders how he is so focused on what the Liberal Party wants in this chamber, not on what those communities need. When it comes to economic responsibility, the $10.6 billion black hole was added to today. For all their chest beating about fiscal responsibility, the economic dries in the Liberal Party have ceded to the National Party. Where is Senator Minchin? Where is Senator Abetz? Where is Andrew Robb? (Time expired)