Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 28, 2011

Thursday, 27th January 2011 – new flood ‘tax’ levy proposed, and the tennis heats up!

Today, the Federal Government, through the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, introduced a flood levy. People with an income of $60,000 will pay just under $1 extra per week and a person earning $100,000 per year will pay just under an extra $5 per week in tax.  There is already much debate [and in some cases, almost outrage] within the community at this imposition, and predictably I suppose, the Federal Opposition has opposed the idea. Tony Abbott’s initial response, when the levy was first hinted at was a rather tame reaction of  “It seems the prime minister is going to call this a ‘mateship tax’. But mates help each other, they don’t tax each other.   In fact, with Federal Parliament due to resume within a week or so, the first debates of significance are going to be focused on this proposed new tax – because of the closeness of numbers in the Lower House, the Government may have some trouble actually getting the levy passed!  At this stage, it is intended to just apply to the 2011-2012 financial year, as basically a one-off taxation levy, and then as indicated, on only a certain percentage of taxpayers..

The main question being asked is that after donating to the flood appeals, do we also now need a flood levy?  From my point of view, hopefully the bulk of donations were aimed at helping to meet costs faced by individual home owners, and small businesses, etc, whereas the need and purpose of the levy  is aimed at partially meeting infrastructure costs, such as repairs to roads, bridge, rail lines and other government and public facilities. Many arguments are been put along the lines that the governments should meet these kind of costs from their existing resources, or reduce spending in other areas of government programs, etc. The absence of emergency ‘disaster funds’ is also being criticised, while suggestions such as reducing foreign aid in preference to looking after our own are being put forward. I must say, I’m a little disappointed to see that the Opposition have come straight out following the announcement, in total disagreement with the proposal [though not suggesting that I am total agreement myself].  I guess I would have like to have seen a little politicising of the issue by the opposition groups and the adoption of a more statesmanlike stance with all members of parliament on the various sides prepared to work together in a bipartisan manner – sad that it’s obvious right from the start, that this won’t happen!  Mind you, it could perhaps be argued that the government’s proposal has an element of ‘protecting’ the planned return to surplus in the next year or so, which also reflects a political motive.

I have no concern with the concept of all Australians providing assistance in one way or another, but there are various disasters of this nature which occur from time to time, and yet there have been very few proposals of this sort – to the people concerned,  are the floods any less tragic or traumatic then those people who died and/or lost everything in the Victorian bushfires of February 2009,  the cyclones that affect various parts of our coast, and so on. Or is the beginning of a regular response whenever a national crisis occurs  – turn to a new tax?  I personally prefer the idea of the introduction of permanent levy of some sort on ‘all’ taxpayers, with the precise purpose of paying all monies so raised into some form of ‘disaster relief fund’. A permanent Disaster Fund is in my view, a necessary burden for our country as we see the billions of dollars damage this country has suffered in the past few years and have had to meet the recovery expense of with no outside help. Australia is generally a front runner when there is disaster in another part of the world, and yet we seem to have no permanent fund to meet local needs. We are a wealthy country, and I don’t believe we should need to depend on support from other countries when disasters occur here. One suggestion I noticed today was a figure of an extra dollar per week be added to our annual individual taxation [$52 a year, not excessive] or pro-rata based on salary levels, and that business pay a percentage according to annual profits. While that kind of suggestion is too late for the current flood situation, it is an opportunity. I maintain that $52 a year is nothing when it comes to preventing much of the grief that comes with these sorts of disasters, particularly the personal economic grief that follows on.

So I’m not interested into getting into arguments against the levy based on cries of past mismanagement of government funds, on things like the stimulus package, school building programs, insulation fiascos etcalong the lines of ‘‘This levy announcement and the resultant backlash from the public in loss of public donations is unquestionably the worst possible thing a financially incompetent federal government could do. It is governments’ job to build and rebuilt infrastructure from existing corporate and government taxes, that’s what we pay taxes for isn’t it and how could they have gotten the financial planning so wrong and still be in government’.  I might well, in fact probably do, agree with many of those sentiments, but really, I’m more interested in meeting the current situation,  but in an efficient manner which is properly controlled, and as well as putting attention to those immediate needs of damaged infrastructure etc, looks to the future and the almost certainty,  that floods, fires, storms, etc, will occur again, as surely as night follows day.  Funding of this sort is absolutely necessary, especially when you look at the ‘untold’ [yet] damage caused in both the Queensland and Victorian floods in particular, to the food production areas of the entire country, and the impact it could have on our national economy? And all of this following hard on the heels of a decade of drought!

Overall, it seems we are in for the usual round of heated debates in Federal Parliament in a week or so. Might be a change from  the refugee debates, though that subject should not be overlooked. Meanwhile, a little closer to home, and of more personal interest, Susie did another trip up to Bendigo today [this time on her own, which as usual worried me to some degree], seeking to finalise accommodation arrangements for her forthcoming year of studies in that city. Finances were going to be a problem, which was why I was glad to be able to be a position to provide some support in that area. Unfortunately, in the accommodation area, she had to commit to the full study period [8/9 months] even though she would not be there for the entire period, understandable from the viewpoint of the provider, but making the whole process a little more expensive than really necessary. She was not expecting any handouts from her Dad, but constantly referring to any assistance I provided as ‘loans’, and while that aspect was of no immediate concern personally, I was not worried about arguing one way or the other. I simply wanted to assist while I was in the position to do so, as I had been doing on different occasions with Susie’s three siblings. I know that in twelve months, my circumstances will be a lot tighter, so in many ways, this ‘out of town’ study and living arrangements had come at a good  time.

This afternoon,  at the Australian Open Tennis, the two women’s semi final games were held. Good results in both cases, as far as I was concerned.  Tennis reports tell us that   

[1] China’s Li Na stunned top seed Caroline Wozniacki Thursday to set up a historic Australian Open final with Belgium’s Kim Clijsters. .Li clawed her way back from match point down to become Asia’s first female Grand Slam finalist 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, and lies one win from a maiden major victory which could ignite tennis’s growth in her giant home country.  It was sheer delight for the beaming Li, who was beaten by Serena Williams in last year’s semi-final, and heroically recovered from a dreadful start against Wozniacki which she blamed on lack of sleep.  “I didn’t have a good night’s sleep last night,” she joked. “My husband (snored). I woke up every hour.”  Li, China’s number one, saved the second-set match point with a crunching forehand as she finally came alive and overhauled her fading opponent on a sun-baked Rod Laver Arena.

[2] Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters says she is in top form ahead of Saturday’s Australian Open final against Li Na.  The triple Grand Slam-winner proved too strong for Vera Zvonareva, beating the Russian 6-3 6-3 in one hour and 13 minutes at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.  The result means Clijsters will leapfrog Zvonareva and be world No.2 behind Caroline Wozniacki when the next rankings are issued.   The Final on Saturday night promises to be an entertaining game, particularly because we haven’t got the same players, eg, the William’s sisters playing – I’m afraid I find it boring having  those two dominating every year!!

Similarly with the men – while Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are crowd favourites, and admittedly, normally, the best two players, I’m less inclined to watch their matches than I am with other players. So, as a consequence of last night’s exit by Nadal, and the outcome of tonight’s Men’s 1st semi final, we will also have a new pairing in the Men’s Final on Sunday night!  In both cases, I will look forward to ‘wasting’ a few more hours in front of the TV, watching the Australian Open Finals That situation came about  because ‘Novak Djokovic signalled a possible new order after ending Roger Federer’s title defence at the Australian Open in a titanic semi-final on Thursday. The resurgent Serbian third seed wore down the 16-time Grand Slam champion 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 6-4 in three hours to repeat his semi-final win over the Swiss great when he went on win his lone major title at the 2008 Australian Open. Djokovic will now play the winner of Friday’s semi-final between British fifth seed Andy Murray and Spain’s seventh seed David Ferrer in Sunday’s title match. Significantly, it will be the first Grand Slam for three years without Rafael Nadal or Federer. With world number one Nadal out of the tournament amid fresh doubts over his fitness, and now Federer vanquished, Djokovic’s triumph may have signalled a changing of the guard at the top of men’s tennis’.  While I’m not particularly a fan of Djokovic. I was not as unhappy with the result as Susie was, she was hoping Federer would fight back, but tonight was not his night! Incidentally, the two Finals’ days over this coming weekend, are expected to be the ‘hottest’ days of the tournament, in the middle 30s. I think the players will be glad that the matches are scheduled for the evening in each instance!

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