Australia floods: victims faced with recovery levy
Published 19/01/2011 | 12:38
Australians suffering from the nation's worst natural disaster in decades could be forced to contribute to help rebuild roads, railways and key infrastructure damaged by the widespread flooding.
The bill from devastating floods across the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia over the past three weeks is expected to reach $20bn (€14.8bn).
The government, which has promised to bring the budget back into surplus by 2013, is expected to foot 75pc of the cost of reconstruction, suggesting that the population of 22.5 million could be issued with a bill for around $660 (€490) each.
Julia Gillard, the prime minister, has refused to rule out a special levy on taxpayers to help fund the recovery effort. but said it would be "irresponsible" to indicate how the government planned to raise the funds.
"I know that there's going to be a lot of effort and money and resources needed to rebuild, particularly rebuild Queensland, but we'll be managing the federal budget ... so that we can meet those needs, as well as managing the budget into surplus in 2012-13," she said.
The Australian newspaper reported that the flood tax could be added to the existing 1.5pc Medicare levy, which pays for public health and hospitals.
In response to the growing need for money to cover the cost of the recovery, Ms Gillard has also formed a taskforce of corporate leaders to rally donations from the business community and mobilise support, warning that Queensland would "need much, much more in the coming months".
News of the potential new tax comes as the flood crisis continues in the southern state of Victoria. On Tuesday, the rising waters of the Wimmera River cut the town of Horsham in two, inundating 500 homes.
Officials in the town, which lies 190 miles northwest of Melbourne, sent three emergency alerts overnight to residents in the path of the high water.
Ted Ballieu, the premier of Victoria, warned the state's residents that the flooding was likely to continue for at least another ten days.
Up to 50 towns across the state have been affected by flooding and more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes. In more bad news, the body of an eight-year-old boy who went missing after falling into a swollen creek was found by police divers.
His death comes after 20 people were killed in flash flooding across Queensland last week.
"(The family) are absolutely shattered, they held a vigil here last night and they always had some sort of hope, they were hoping for the best. Unfortunately it hasn't occurred," said acting senior sergeant Jason Kelly.