Proposed flood levy collected via rates may cause backlash
UPDATE 2pm: The Queensland councils watchdog fears a ratepayer backlash if a proposed flood levy to protect against natural disaster impacts is collected through rates notices.
Local Government Association of Queensland President Margaret de Wit said the proposed levy required close scrutiny because past experience had taught local governments to be sceptical of such proposals, pointing an ambulance levy in 2002.
She said the association would need to see more details and consult member councils before they could commit to it.
"We wouldn't endorse that without knowing how much the levy is going to be, how is it going to be imposed?" she said.
"Is it going to be a flat rate across the board? Is it going to be based on property values? Is it going to be commercial and residential?
"What about indigenous communities? The indigenous councils are a different category in that most of them don't have rateable properties, so ... are they going to be exempted from the levy.
"It is unfortunate at a time when councils are drawing up budgets. We don't know whether it's going to be on rates bills or electricity or water. it leaves us in a position where it's difficult to comment."
Ms de Wit said back to two massive flood disasters in two years meant there was a "dire situation" and funds were needed to guard against future impacts.
She said it was an idea worth considering but there were a lot of unanswered questions.
"There is a need to have a reliable source of funds to deal with the disasters that seem to be happening a lot more often," she said.
"Queensland councils have put in applications for over $1 billion worth of funding to help with their flood resilience projects.
"The Federal Government is only offering $80 million of more than $1 billion so there's a massive shortfall there for councils trying to rebuild their infrastructure so it won't continually be flooded or damaged in disasters."
Ms de Wit said if the Federal Government believed they had poured money in already, they did not understand "the magnitude of this problem".
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the proposed tax should come with a guarantee of a limited shelf-life, otherwise the levy was just a "backdoor way" of implementing a household tax recommended in the Costello Audit.
She said the local government minister's suggestion collecting $1 billion over five years would 'make a good start' suggested "a big new tax in concrete" under the guise of flood repairs.
"If it does, who knows how much Queenslanders will be hit," she said.
"Mr (Tim) Costello estimated that for every $100 tax levied the government would raise $200 million.
"It is uncanny that the Newman Government is now talking about a new tax raising an estimated $1 billion over five years -or $200 million a year."
Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson said the levy was up for discussion but no decision had been made thus far.
"Communities very badly hit, like Gympie and Bundaberg, like Rockhampton, they are crying out to make sure that we not only rebuild but rebuild better and that is why resilience is so important," he said.
EARLIER: The Federal Treasurer says he is puzzled by Queensland's proposal to impose a levy on ratepayers to pay for flood mitigation measures.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said the Commonwealth had provided Queensland with $6 billion over recent years for flood recovery, including $3 billion which was yet to be spent.
"So I am somewhat puzzled as to why they would now turn around and seek to impose an additional tax on Queenslanders for the floods when we have given such significant money to Queensland over recent years including $3 billion still sitting in an account, unspent," he told reporters in Brisbane.
Comment has been sought from the Treasury Department about what the $3 billion relates to.
A report in the Courier Mail stated the Newman Government was considering raising about $1 billion over four or five years through an extra charge on household bills to fund new levees, dams and move flood-prone infrastructure out of harm's way.
Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience Minister David Crisafulli is holding a press conference on Friday morning to respond to the report.
Asked about the proposal, Mr Swan said Australians had already contributed to a temporary levy following the 2010/2011 natural disasters to pay for recovery assistance.
"Now the Queensland Government is seeking to say, almost retrospectively, 'I want to raise some more money' which the Federal Government has already given the $6 billion of which $3 billion is unspent," he said.
The Queensland Government last month accused the Commonwealth of withholding $725 million in disaster recovery funding.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the money, which was meant to reimburse the State Government for paying out assistance to councils and flood victims, was withheld because certain projects funded had not been verified with audit requirements.
Mr Nicholls said at the time to expect councils with thousands of kilometres of roads to have pre-flood photos of every "culvert, causeway and street sign was ludicrous".
But the Federal Treasury confirmed in April the money had been paid back in May, 2012, and the issue was with Queensland's Auditor-General refusing to tick off Mr Nicholls' claim the money was spent on reconstruction efforts.
WHAT do you think? Are you prepared to pay a little more to have Queensland more flood-proof. If so how much of a levy would you support? Leave your comments below.