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Australia floods to cut growth: bank

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Feb 15, 2011
Australia's record floods will shear one percentage point off growth in the March quarter, the central bank said Tuesday, with preliminary estimates showing a 15 percent drop in coal output.

The Reserve Bank of Australia said last month's inundation of a huge area of mining, farming and tourism state Queensland would have "significant short-term effects on output and prices".

"The biggest effect on GDP was likely to arise from swings in coal production, with many Queensland mines severely affected by wet weather since December," the bank said in the minutes to its latest interest rate meeting, published Tuesday.

"Preliminary estimates suggested that national coal production would be around 15 percent lower over the December and March quarters than would otherwise have been the case."

The bank, which held interest rates steady at 4.75 percent this month, said the "cumulative effect of lost production... from the floods would result in the level of GDP being around one percentage point lower in the March quarter".

It would bounce back strongly as the recovery ramped up to slightly above pre-flood forecasts by the June quarter, the RBA said, with medium-term prospects "largely the same as they had been prior to the floods".

Treasurer Wayne Swan has flagged a 0.5 percentage point drop in growth for the current fiscal year due to the floods, which killed 35 people and brought the nation's third-largest city, Brisbane, to a standstill.

Swan warned he "couldn't rule out" negative growth for the March quarter, which would be the first contraction for Australia's mining-powered economy since the global financial crisis.

The coal industry, which flooding virtually shut down in Queensland last month, stood to lose about Aus$5 billion (US$5.02 billion) in exports from the crisis, while agriculture could take a Aus$2 billion hit, Swan said.

The floods were followed by a top-level cyclone which Treasury estimates wiped out Aus$700 million in rural production, Aus$200 million in coal exports and Aus$100 million in tourism activity.

Australia's economy grew a worse-than-expected 0.2 percent quarter on quarter in the three months to the end of September, the most recent available figure, which was the slowest since the depths of the financial crisis.

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Australia flags taxpayer levy for floods
Sydney (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Friday raised the prospect of a one-off tax to pay for rebuilding after epic floods, as rising waters prompted more evacuations in the southeast. Crops, roads and railway lines were washed away and thousands of homes destroyed by vast floods that swamped Queensland state this month in what the government has said could be the nation's most costly natur ... read more

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