Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gillard warns of cutbacks and flood levy

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned that the economic impact from the flooding in Queensland could result in both spending cutbacks and a flood levy.

"This is going to require some difficult decisions, spending cutbacks and there may even a levy," Ms Gillard said on ABC's 7.30 Report.

"We are obviously working on those decisions now as we work with our Queensland colleagues to clarify the bill for infrastructure rebuilding.

"At the same time we're seeing floodwaters in Victoria. They're right in the midst of battling those floodwaters and there may well be infrastructure rebuilding that needs to be done after those floodwaters recede."

The prime minister also said there was a significant difference between the impact of the current Queensland floods and those of 1974.

"What we've got to remember is that in 1974 Queensland was a far smaller part of our national economy than it is now - around 14 per cent then, around 19 per cent now," she said.

"And Queensland contributes about 25 per cent of our exports, so a flood crisis in Queensland has major economic impacts around the nation."

Ms Gillard said the damage bill for rebuilding infrastructure would not be known until the floodwaters subside and the full impact was revealed.

She also defended the decision for a planned budget surplus in 2012-13, saying the economy would be "running hot" then and it's the right time to save for the future.

"We've got to remember our economy is strong with a large pipeline of investment coming though," Ms Gillard said.

"It's the right way to have our budget position given where our economy will be at that time.

"Let's remember, we came out of the global financial crisis strong - an economy that was running or tending to run close to full capacity - that the right thing to be doing in those circumstances is to have a budget surplus. That's why we had determined to bring the budget to surplus in 2012-13."

The prime minister also defended her decision not to scrap the national broadband network, explaining that it would be "an investment which will end up earning interest money for the taxpayers".

Ms Gillard also said that she, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten had been meeting with representatives from the insurance industry, asking them to show the same "spirit of generosity" in this flood crisis that they had seen from the Australian people.

"Our economy is strong and we will get through this by pulling together, the same way we got through the global financial crisis - by pulling together," she said.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010: Queensland's wettest year on record

It's official: 2010 was Queensland's wettest year on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

In its Annual Climate Summary released today, the Bureau of Meteorology said "exceptional" weather saw the state's average rainfall nearly double that of a normal year.

Queensland also had its wettest spring on record, as well as wettest September and December, while every month from August to December ranked in their respective top 10s.

Climate services manager Jeff Fabburg said if the state had not had such a wet spring it might have been saved from the devastating floods of the past month.

"Having all that rain early, then going into the summer period – and the highest rainfall is traditionally January and February – that's topped up everything to the point where a lot of it is going into run off," he said.

The average annual rainfall across the state was 1109.73 millimetres in 2010, exceeding the previous record of 1103.77 millimetres in 1950. Records began in 1900.

The long term average, taken from 1961-1990, is 623.34 millimetres.

Australia-wide, it was the third wettest year on record, with the mean rainfall total of 690 millimetres well above the long-term average of 465 millimetres.

Some 77 recording stations around the state had record rainfall in 2010.

Some areas of the tropical east coast, between Cooktown and Yeppoon and along the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast, recorded more than 1200 millimetres of rain above the long-term average.

The wettest place overall in Queensland last year was Bellenden Ker Top Station with more than 12 metres of rain - 12,438.4 millimetres - followed by Babinda Post Office with 6893.6 millimetres.

Temperatures for the year were unusually cool during the day, but unusually warm at night.

The Bureau said extensive cloud cover associated with the high rainfall had a marked effect on moderating temperatures.

The coldest night was at Oakey with -6 degrees on June 28, and the three hottest days were recorded at Birdsville Airport, with the peak at 45.4 degrees on January 24.

Overall, it was Australia's coolest year since 2001, but the mean temperature was still above average at 22 degrees, 0.19 degrees above the 1961 - 1990 average.

It was the eighth-warmest year on record for minimum temperatures.

Mr Fabburg said the La Nina ocean system, the main cause of widespread flooding and heavy rain in 2010, was expected to continue for at least the first quarter of 2011.

But hot, dry weather may return later in the year if an El Nino system takes over.

"What happens after the La Nina ends is the real question," he said.

"Probability wise there is a 40 per cent chance of this La Nina going into an El Nino and a 50 per cent chance of this La Nina going into another La Nina."