When Hurricane Irene pummelled the US East Coast last week, some Queenslanders probably felt a sense of déjà vu for the natural disasters that demolished swathes of their state earlier this year.
But they wouldn’t just be feeling déjà vu over the disaster damage. If they’ve been paying attention to international news, they’d also be feeling it over the political reaction to Irene in the US.
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It is well known that in politics you don’t interrupt your enemy when he is busy making a mistake. Yet it is a rule routinely forgotten.
Coalition MPs were surprised when Julia Gillard suddenly bobbed up on February 24 to announce Australia would indeed have a carbon tax as a prelude to a full emissions trading scheme.
Much of the commentary since has been about the bizarre politics of the announcement rather than the substance of the policy. This is because there was no substance (beyond it being a blatant broken promise) and because the whole event raised serious questions as to who in the PM’s inner sanctum is in charge of strategy and who, beyond the PM’s office, is shaping policy. As to the latter, the Opposition’s claim that the Greens are the tail wagging the dog was hardly contradicted by their presence in the PM’s normally exclusive courtyard.
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John Tsouroutis has taken a $1 million salary cut to join a crusade to make states look after themselves. He’s now on the relative hardscrabble of an adviser’s pay in the office of independent senator Nick Xenophon.
Tsouroutis was managing director of the TIO banking and insurance group from 2003 until 2008 when the commute from Adelaide to Darwin became too much for the family.
From his business career he knows how government can force individuals to insure themselves. Just take third party cover for motorists. He wants to make sure state governments do the same thing, rather than expect someone else to pay reconstruction costs after a natural disaster. Tsouroutis was on an elite salary with TIO and hopes to get back on one soon. But he’s got a big job to complete first.
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Welcome to The Angry Cripple. Not very PC, is it?
As a person with a deep and personal interest in disability issues, I’m remaining anonymous so I can post not only my opinions, leaked documents and stuff that might otherwise get me in trouble, but also the opinions of other people with an interest. There will be guest columns by famous Australians, as well as ones written by my neighbours.
But mostly, the columns will feature me writing about things that make me angry, and why I reckon they should make you angry, too.
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In Kerang, Victoria, visiting mother. Helping clean up house after floods. Damage has been extensive, and mother’s insurance may not cover the entire bill. Mother is at least relieved that, as a flood victim, she will get an exemption from Gillard’s flood tax levy. Maybe I should change my postal address to also avoid levy?
Go downtown for breakfast. Locals keep telling me I look familiar. Reluctant to reveal that I am an MP. Have already heard my quota of flood stories from mother. Decide to tell locals I work in insurance. Serious mistake. Pretty sure I would be better off pretending to be Greens Senator.
Decide not to change postal address - don’t want to end up representing these people.
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The Gillard government is now so financially gun-shy it doesn’t trust itself.
So the Prime Minister has brought in some extra protection — a few new strata of bureaucracy to catch spending stuff-ups before they become billion dollar embarrassments.
And how better to prevent Liberal attacks on spending measures than to appoint a Liberal to second-guess every spending decision.
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This morning’s Newspoll gives to Julia Gillard with the one hand and then quickly smacks her in the back of the head with the other.
The fact that the flood levy has popular support (55-41) can’t be anything but good news for the Government at a time when it will dominate the politics of the next week.
But then the bad news for Gillard: a two point fall in Labor’s primary vote down to a meagre 32 per cent. The Coalition’s has risen by 3 points since the last poll in December to 44, and now has a two party preferred lead of 52-48 and would almost certainly win an election if it were held tomorrow.
Amid the furore of Cyclone Yasi, it largely escaped comment that Tony Abbott had begun a slow crab-walk away from his trademark “just say no’’ approach.
In fact twice this week, he went all bi-partisan on us. Well, bi-partisan for him anyway.
First he proposed sitting down with Julia Gillard to work through possible budget savings to be made in lieu of her proposed $1.8 billion flood levy. Then within days, he went further pledging to support Ms Gillard’s moves to get the long-term jobless, under-employed casuals, and people with disabilities, off welfare and into the full-time workforce.
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Update 6:05am : Cyclone Yasi has been downgraded to a category three storm, but remains dangerous. The “very destructive” core, with gusts up to 205 km/h, is continuing to move inland west of Cardwell towards the Georgetown area. The full extent of the damage isn’t known yet but the communities of Mission Beach, Tully and Innisfail, 50km north of ground zero, are the worst hit. There have been no reported deaths or injuries so far. Read more as news.com.au live updates.
Political grandstanding over the Government’s proposed Queensland levy will look extremely silly, if not downright nasty, after the brute force of cyclone Yasi blows some perspective into the debate.
Anything which might delay, limit or compromise the reconstruction of lives and vital economic production in Queensland will be isolated, highlighted, and no doubt condemned.
If a cyclone can have a silver lining - even one as catastrophic as Yasi - this is it. It will blow away the political smoke and flummery and concentrate the minds on all sides.
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As far as insults go, “disgusting” is right up there. The Macquarie Dictionary tells us it means to cause nausea or loathing, to offend taste or moral sense, to cause repugnance by something offensive or distasteful.
“Disgusting” is the term which Labor has chosen to describe Tony Abbott’s attacks on the $1.8 billion flood tax. Treasurer Wayne Swan led the charge on Sunday saying it was “frankly disgusting” that Tony Abbott was playing politics over a measure aimed at rebuilding homes, saying the only home the Opposition Leader was interested in was The Lodge. Other senior ministers have since taken Swan’s lead, with the Climate Change Minister Greg Combet repeatedly using the d-word yesterday to rip into Abbott over his stand, saying he was unfit to be PM.
With the resumption of Parliament just a week away, and the Gillard Government still juggling the often contradictory policy demands or rural independents and inner-city Green MPs, Labor has finally adopted a much tougher strategy towards Abbott in 2011. More accurately, it’s finally adopted any sort of strategy at all, beyond hoping he’ll somehow go away.
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Julia Gillard can’t be too happy with the way her flood reconstruction package has been received. But then, who welcomes a new tax?
Talk-back callers complained about paying twice, even though very few will and in any event, donations to victims - a different thing from the levy which is for rebuilding roads and rail and ports and the like - are mostly tax deductible.
One paper featured a mystifyingly indignant Brisbane resident who, as a low income-earner, stands to gain from the reconstruction effort while being exempt from paying the levy herself. She went on to suggest her partner, a tradesman, could be liable for ``thousands’’ in extra tax. This is unlikely unless he earns upwards of $300,000 which is the level of income you’d need to be slugged that hard by the levy.
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The resounding response to the flood levy has been: We want to donate of our own free will, not be forced to cough up. We pay enough f(#*&*king taxes. We want to know where all our money went.
By all that’s unholy, Australians hate paying taxes.
Clearly, it hurts when you see your payslip and feel the plasma-shaped hole left by the taxman. More seriously, the “working poor” phenomenon is real, and some people are finding it much, much harder to meet their everyday living expenses.
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Julia Gillard faces her biggest political test since becoming Prime Minister to win the approval of parliament for the $5.6 billion flood rescue package.
And she be may forced to negotiate a permanent Natural Disaster Fund if she wants to win the backing of key rural Independent MPs and the Greens. NSW rural MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are demanding a long-term solution to fund the regular bushfires and floods that ravage rural communities across Australia.
The Greens - who are likely to back the flood rescue plan - also said they are opposed to climate program cuts announced as part of a raft of savings measures. But at least one Independent MP - Queenslander Bob Katter - said he loves the levy and will support it when it comes before Parliament.
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Julia Gillard today extracted herself from the sucking political quagmire of the past two months with a package of flood recovery money which appeals to the heart as well as the exchequer.
Gillard was bogged down in the response to the three-state inundation while just about every other public figure associated with it had their standings enhanced.
She was always seen by critics as a superfluous figure distracting from that nice Anna Bligh, or annoying flood victims with intrusions. Her clothing, hair-do and even her emotional commitment were savaged.
Middle income earners will contribute about $1 a week to a one-off levy on annual income with Julia Gillard today vowing Australia will “pay as we go” for urgent flood recovery work.
The Prime Minister announced a funding package of which two-thirds would come from spending cuts and one third from the levy of 0.5 per cent of taxable income for those earning more than $50,000 a year.
The Government will invest at least $5.6 billion in repairing damaged caused by floods in three states, with an immediate $2 billion going to Queensland, the worst hit state.
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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has appealed to emotion and a sense of nationhood to sell her flood rescue package, which will include a year-long levy. Someone on $60,000 will pay under $1 a week, while someone earning $100,000 a year will pay just under $5 a week..
In a measured speech to the national Press Club, Ms Gillard described Australia as a nation grieving in the wake of a tragedy, and announced that people affected by the floods will not pay the levy, which will raise $1.8 billion.
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