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Julia GillardJULIA Gillard warned of tough cutbacks to help flood victims, but will anyone shed a tear for the cleaner car rebate scheme, aka “cash for clunkers”?

And besides the Greens, who will mourn the passing of the catchily-named carbon capture and storage flagships?

The two programs, worth a combined $2 billion, are among a raft of feel-good initiatives being jettisoned to pay for flood recovery.

The government was just waiting for an excuse to dump its policy duds.

The hardest thing about the cuts for Labor is the pressure they will put on its fragile parliamentary majority.

The lower house independents’ pet regional development funds will be raided to channel funds towards flood-hit Queensland.

But the Prime Minister should be able to manage any tensions there.

And her push ahead with an emissions trading scheme should placate the Greens, whose MP Adam Bandt keeps Ms Gillard in office.

If anything, the cuts show there is actually fat in the budget to lose.

It’s surprising, for this reason, that it couldn’t find a mere $1.8 billion to avoid the need for a special flood levy.

Yet the levy has been carefully crafted.

It’s being couched in patriotic terms, and those who’ll complain the loudest are less likely to vote Labor anyway.

Tony Abbott says the levy is a “great big new tax”, putting it in the same category as the more politically fraught mining and carbon taxes.

But he’s walking a fine line – if voters feel he’s being uncharitable they may start to turn on him.

The impression on Queenslanders is also crucial in an electoral sense.

Support for Labor plunged in the state at the last federal poll.

The flood response may be a turning point for Julia Gillard in the state, as it looks to be for Anna Bligh.

Story source: www.theaustralian.com.au      Ben Packham is the National Affairs Editor, Online

Tags: economy, flood, queensland, research

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