No cyclone levy imminent

THE Federal Government has said there is no need to introduce a new levy to repair the damage of Cyclone Yasi, just a week after announcing a levy to fund the flood recovery effort.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday said budget cuts will be identified to fund the recovery from the cyclone that lashed north Queensland earlier this week.

Blair MP Shayne Neumann said it did not automatically follow that because the cyclone recovery could be funded by budget cuts, similar cuts could have been made to fund the flood recovery without a levy.

He said the levy was vitally important and hoped it would pass through parliament.

“We are also making cuts for the flood recovery, “ he said. “$5.6 billion is the cost of the rebuild at this stage and these are the measures we need to take to pay for it,” Mr Neumann said.

“Some people might be critical, but I think the majority won’t mind the modest levy. It’s about helping your mates.”

Ms Gillard yesterday visited the north Queensland city of Townsville to survey the damage left by Cyclone Yasi.

She said the levy, proposed to pay for rebuilding after last month’s floods, would not be used for post-cyclone recovery, and tough budget decisions were looming.

“We will need to find additional resources in the Federal Government’s budget to meet the needs of recovering from this cyclone and we will need to make some very tough decisions to make money available,” Ms Gillard said.

“But we will do that to make sure we have the resources available to rebuild in north and far north Queensland.”

Ms Gillard confirmed cyclone victims who claimed disaster payments from Centrelink would be exempt from the flood levy, similar to the situation for Ipswich flood victims who claimed assistance.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott met with his shadow cabinet yesterday to discuss the details of the coalition’s response to the disasters, which the coalition said would be released within days.

The coalition will oppose the levy legislation when it comes to Parliament next week, with Mr Abbott arguing the funds could be found by cutting wasteful spending.

“I think everyone who is familiar with the Commonwealth budget knows that there is fat in the budget,” Mr Abbott said.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said she would like discussion about a national natural disaster fund.

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