$500m To Rebuild Flooded Victoria

VICTORIA is to get $500 million to start rebuilding after the floods.

The Herald Sun can reveal the money will be paid within days after a deal was struck between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Family First Senator Steve Fielding.

The cash will be used to repair roads and critical infrastructure in some of the state’s 94 flood-affected communities.

Senator Fielding said in return he would use his crucial Senate vote to support the PM’s controversial $1.8 billion flood levy.

The PM also last night struck a historic health deal after talks with the states.

Ms Gillard promised to investigate a permanent national disaster fund.

“I will support the flood levy because I’m not prepared to abandon flood-affected communities who need recovery funds immediately,” Senator Fielding told the Herald Sun.

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“I won’t let people in Victoria suffer while politicians squabble in Canberra. We can’t leave flood-affected communities hanging any longer.”

Senator Fielding’s vote is a boost for the PM, but she still faces a battle to convince other independents and the Greens to pass the one-year levy on taxable income over $50,000.

Senator Fielding was also critical of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s stance.

“On this issue of the floods, the Opposition has been clumsy and doesn’t give anyone a lot of confidence. They have looked like a rabble,” he said.

Ms Gillard proposed the levy to meet one-third of the Federal Government’s $5.6 billion share of the clean-up bill after the devastating summer floods. About $1 billion is expected to go to Victoria.

But while the PM said almost three weeks ago that Queensland would get an immediate payment of $2 billion, there has been no quick cash for Victoria, which has sparked claims she has neglected her home state.

This deal could be the legacy for Senator Fielding, whose term will end on June 30 after he failed to be re-elected at last year’s poll.

While Lower House independent MP Tony Windsor said he was “leaning against” the flood levy and did not mind if the Budget stayed in deficit, Senator Fielding said: “The best way to insure against future disasters is to have a budget surplus.”

He also backed a national disaster fund.

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