Samantha Hawley reported this story on Thursday, February 10, 2011 18:10:00
MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has introduced her flood levy bill into the House of Representatives but its passage through the Parliament has hit a speed bump.
For the next month a Lower House economics committee will consider the bill. That means it won't be dealt with until the end of March. And there's still no guarantee that the Government will get the crossbench support it needs to pass the bill.
The levy dominated parliamentary proceedings again today with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader trading blows.
Tony Abbott accused the Prime Minister of having a "tin ear." Julia Gillard says her opponent has a "tin heart."
From Canberra Samantha Hawley reports.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The condolence motion for the victims of the floods began in the House of Representatives two days ago and it's still going. Queensland Labor backbencher, Yvette D'Ath spoke of her brother losing everything during the floods.
YVETTE D'ATH: There were many sentimental items lost that day and items sentimental to our whole family. These include my mother's ashes, …but Mr Deputy Speaker those losses mean nothing because my brother, Brett, his wife Jenny, my niece Seanee and my brother, Robbie are safe.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The gloves came off a few hours later in Question Time where the flood levy dominated again. The Opposition jumped on an earlier Government bid to boost funding for managing asylum seekers by almost $300 million.
SCOTT MORRISON: How does the Prime Minister explain to Queenslanders why the $155 million in flood mitigation works for the Bruce Highway has to be cut by a Government yet it can't find $290, it can find $290 million more for blowouts in the Immigration Department?
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The question by the Opposition's Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison was followed up by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.
TONY ABBOTT: On the Prime Minister's logic, is the Government now planning a boats tax to cover the unforeseen additional expenses of boarder protection?
JULIA GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I have contemplated a tax on three word slogans but thought that it would bankrupt the Leader of the Opposition so quickly it would be inappropriate. So I've changed my mind but I have contemplated that tax and maybe swear jar style we should just put one on, put one on the table here.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: After Question Time the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader continued to trade blows.
TONY ABBOTT: Mr Speaker, I said this week, I said this week that the Prime Minister has a decent heart but I tell you what, she's got a tin ear. She sure has got a tin ear. She sure doesn't understand anything about mateship because if she understood anything about mateship at all, she would know that mateship is not taxing people. Mateship is helping people.
JULIA GILLARD: The Leader of the Opposition is very keen to throw insults around, well let me say this; I've never seen such a tin heart. I've never seen such a tin heart. Trying to work out how he could surf these flood waters into Kirribilli. That was the main thing on his mind, all about his political interests.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The legislation for the flood levy hit the floor of the Lower House this morning. But that's it for now. The bill will go to an economics committee for the next month. The independents, who supported the committee's involvement, say the delay is of little consequence.
ANDREW WILKIE: There is absolutely no suggestion of the crossbenchers trying to deny money or stop money flowing. The money is there to flow. You know we've got a $350 billion a year federal budget.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The independent MP, Andrew Wilkie has yet to reveal whether he'll be supporting the levy's passage through the Parliament. The independent, Bob Katter says he will support it. But the Greens and the independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott still haven't decided what they'll do.
ROB OAKESHOTT: I'm just looking for consideration of all options.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And the Government's facing a fight on another front too. Unusually the Senate has passed a Private Member's Bill put forward by the Nationals' Fiona Nash, giving more rural students access to youth allowance.
The Greens Leader, Bob Brown sees it as a significant moment.
BOB BROWN: It does mean that the innovation of the whole of the Parliament is at work instead of simply the Government in a winner takes all way.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The bill originated in the Upper House and would cost the Government over $300 million. The Finance Minister, Penny Wong says that means it's unconstitutional and can't proceed any further.
PENNY WONG: The fact is this is an act of irresponsibility from the Opposition. The fact is governments have to manage the budget, governments initiate bills which appropriate money and what we have seen is Mr Abbott's Opposition overturning, overturning that convention.
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The bill won't become law because it would need the Government to seek the Governor-General's approval and it won't be doing that.
MARK COLVIN: Samantha Hawley.
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