The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

29 January 2011

Doorstop Interview with
the Hon Bernie Ripoll MP, Member for Oxley

Goodna RSL and Flood Recovery Centre

29 January 2011

SUBJECTS: Floods Rebuild

TREASURER:

There's going to be a massive effort required in the months ahead and years ahead to rebuild Queensland and this community here in Goodna is typical of what has occurred in this natural disaster. Something like 600 homes were flooded and as you can see this local RSL club here has also been devastated. So what we have to do is we have to rebuild households and we have to rebuild communities. That's going to require an enormous effort. The generosity of volunteers is still going to be required as we go forward. We're going to require the generosity when it comes to donations as we go forward and we've seen the importance of that here so far in this local community. This kitchen behind us here has been doing a fantastic job of feeding local workers and local families as they go about cleaning out their houses and cleaning out their businesses. Just to give you an example of what they've done over one week: there's been 50 dozen eggs, 680 kilograms of meat, 30 kilograms of bacon, all of that has been donated by businesses – mainly local businesses, in-kind donations which have supported this community as it recovers from the flood.

But as we go forward the whole of the community across the state that is flood affected is going to continue to require particularly those in-kind donations from businesses, the Queensland flood authority for example is receiving hundreds of offers everyday of in-kind donations from businesses and you can see their impact here. Local car dealers have been lending the community cars. Local hire firms are providing electricity and laundries. Local businesses are really kicking in and they are going to require that effort as we go forward, but also we know that we have to rebuild our community infrastructure. We've got to rebuild the roads. We've got to rebuild the rail lines. We've got to rebuild the schools. They have all been affected, and of course in Queensland, but also in Victoria, parts of northern New South Wales, there has been enormous destruction of community infrastructure and that's why we need a modest levy, a modest levy to support the rebuilding of the community infrastructure as we go forward. And in terms of that levy 6 out of 10 Australians will pay less than $1 per week in the levy. And even if you're earning something like $80,000 it's something like $2. 80 extra a week, less than a cost of a cup of coffee. So this is a very modest levy to rebuild community infrastructure in these devastated regions because you can't get the community operating if you don't have the infrastructure. So the reconstruction doesn't just stop at the front gate of the household. It has to extend to all of the other infrastructure in the community and that's why the need is great.

Now, I see the Leader of the Opposition today is making some comments on all of these matters. Frankly I think his comments in the paper today are disgusting. Communities have been shattered. There has been enormous loss of life and Mr Abbott is seeking to use this event for his own political aims. As the Federal Government works with volunteers and the business community to rebuild infrastructure and homes the only home Mr Abbott has his eye on is the Lodge, and I think frankly that's disgusting.

I just want to throw to Bernie Ripoll just to say a couple of things.

RIPOLL:

Thanks Wayne. Goodna and this whole region has been hit very hard and I think people are starting to really understand that. All the way from Ipswich, right through Goodna and all the way down to the centenary suburbs of Brisbane and beyond of course. But as hard as we've been hit, we've seen an equivalent community effort. An unbelievable amount of volunteers, people coming from down south, from all over the state, from all over the country to help and it's been phenomenal. It's been very humbling to see that effort and certainly the past two weeks have been an incredible contribution from business, from the community, from our local churches, from people who just wanted to do something to help. But it doesn't end there, this is only the first stage and we've still got a lot of work to do. There's still a lot of rebuilding. We've got to get our community back on its feet, all of the community infrastructure.

You know, whether it's an RSL, or whether it's a community sports or a bowls centre that we're next to, all of these facilities are community facilities and they'll need everybody's support right across the country. We haven't seen anything on this scale so localised here in the south east of Queensland and up and down the state for a very, very long time. And I really want to thank people for all the effort they've put in so far. There's still a lot of work to be done and we can't do it on our own. I really encourage people to just get behind the efforts that we're putting in and certainly want to make sure people understand that everything they've done is very much appreciated and continues to be.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, are you worried about a voter backlash over the levy?

TREASURER:

What we have to do is the right thing. The right thing by communities like this in Goodna and right across Queensland, in Victoria, in northern New South Wales. We've got to do the right thing by communities and we've got to do the right thing by our national economy. I'm just disgusted that Mr Abbott would seek to use this event to rise to power because that's effectively what he has said in the paper today. The whole community has come together. The whole community understands the need and the whole community understands that we do need to pay for this and a modest levy is part of the solution, only part of the solution. We are going to require the cooperation and the hard work of the whole community. Government – federal, state and local – as well as voluntary community organisations and the business community to get this job done because there's no quick fix here. This is not going to take months, it is going to take years. So there are no simple solutions here and it is just wrong of Mr Abbott to suggest that there are simple solutions and it is wrong of Mr Abbott to use this in the political way that he is using it.

JOURNALIST:

Should Sydneysiders pay less?

TREASURER:

You know I've spent a lot of time in western Sydney and this community here is very similar to many communities in western Sydney. There's a lot of battlers out here and they understand the need that when times get tough we all have to pull together and I believe  the people of western Sydney understand the need for this levy because in other circumstances it could have been them.

And when you look at the way in which this levy has been designed, it has been designed to reflect the capacity to pay of people. I was talking to somebody yesterday and they said they were at the supermarket and they were talking to a checkout operator who said to them that they thought they'd be paying $10 a week. A checkout operator at the supermarket is unlikely to pay this levy at all. The fact is 6 out of 10 Australians will pay less than $1 per week. If you're on $80,000 it's less than the cost of a cup of coffee. It's an important contribution to the rebuilding task which is large and it is going to occupy the whole community not just for months, but for years ahead.

JOURNALIST:

So when do you hope to have it through Parliament?

TREASURER:

Well, we'll do our best to get it into the Parliament and to get it passed as quickly as we can. We do understand the need to have a discussion about this. I can tell you what, Mr Abbott has basically deserted the Queensland community. He's playing politics at a time when there is still many, many families in distress. I find that disgusting.

JOURNALIST:

Are you worried that the Independents will abandon Labor over the levy at all?

TREASURER:

We have to do the right thing by Queensland and we have to do the right thing by Australia. We do not approach this from a political perspective. There is absolutely no choice. We have had here in economic terms perhaps the biggest disaster in Australia's history and there is a need to respond, to respond quickly, to respond responsibly. That's what the Government has done and we haven't come to this response from any other perspective than looking after people – putting people first and doing it in a way which is economically responsible.

JOURNALIST:

Have you considered varying it with what Ms Keneally has said?

TREASURER:

No, I certainly would not because people in western Sydney are very similar to the people that are living here in the south western suburbs of Ipswich and Brisbane.

JOURNALIST:

But she argues that it's an expensive place to live and they should pay less.

TREASURER:

Well, it's an expensive place to live out here. They're a long way from the city. They pay a lot to travel and to commute out here as well. But this levy reflects the fact that people on modest incomes will pay very little and people in western Sydney as well as people out here in the southwest of Brisbane and in the Ipswich community are pretty similar to the battlers of western Sydney and they deserve a fair go and this levy has been designed to give them all a fair go recognising that we're all in this together. We're all in it together and that's why there's a levy, because this could have happened in western Sydney, it could have happened in western Melbourne, it could have happened in Western Australia, it could have happened in Tasmania but it's happened in Queensland. And all Australians want to support Queensland in its time of need except Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott thought a levy was a good idea during the recent election campaign. He was going to put a levy on to support wealthy people getting paid large amounts of money for parental leave and it wasn't a temporary levy, it was a permanent levy. And when he was in government he supported six levies that the Howard Government put forward – six levies. But now because he wants to play politics with the floods and capitalise on the misfortune of the people of Queensland he says we can't have a levy. He has no credibility whatsoever.

JOURNALIST:

Are taxes on cigarettes and alcohol going to rise in the next budget?

TREASURER:

I don't speculate about the next budget whatsoever but we have put in place the arrangements that will support the reconstruction of Queensland.