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Australia weighs tax to fund flood recovery

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Australia's flood of tears
  • In a television interview, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she is pinpointing possible spending cuts
  • "I want to be very blunt with Australians. We have a lot of flood damage to repair," she says
  • Official damage estimates for flooding are still being calculated
  • Queensland state's premier has said rebuilding will have a "multi-billion dollar price tag"

(CNN) -- Australia's government is considering spending cuts and a special tax to help offset the massive economic impact of recent widespread flooding, the country's prime minister said.

"There will certainly be spending cuts ... and there may also be a levy," Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Thursday, according to a transcript of the interview released by her office.

"I'm not in a position tonight to detail to you the areas. I am working on that now," she added.

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Official damage estimates for flooding are still being calculated. Earlier this month, Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said rebuilding after the floods would have a "multi-billion dollar price tag."

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  • Australia
  • Floods

Floodwaters also inundated homes and devastated thousands of acres of crops in the southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria.

"We don't have the total damage bill yet, but I want to be very blunt with Australians. We have a lot of flood damage to repair in Queensland. There will be some economic effects on GDP growth, a short-term effect on inflation with food prices and the like, but our economy is strong and we will get through this by pulling together," Gillard said.

On Wednesday, Victoria state Premier Ted Baillieu said flooding in southern Australia and other parts of the country would have a significant economic impact nationwide.

"It is going to take some time. There is going to be a whack on our economy," said Baillieu. "And it will be that effect right across Australia from Queensland in the north to Victoria in the south."

Floods in Queensland state, which started more than a month ago, have killed at least 20 people, police said.

The biggest impact to the economy is Australia's burgeoning coal industry, which -- like other of the nation's commodities -- helped buoy the nation's economy through the Great Recession. Growth in Australia contracted during the financial crisis, but the economy escaped recession.

Australia is the world's largest supplier of coking coal, essential in steel-making, and is the second largest supplier of thermal coal used in power plants. Earlier this month the floods caused world coal prices to hit a two-year high.

The Queensland region also is a major exporter of sugar, cotton and wheat.

CNN's John Raedler and Kevin Voigt contributed to this report.

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