Overall, the third Federal Budget delivered by Treasurer Scott Morrison was positive for reducing the cost of living, and whilst it hasn't delivered on key North Queensland priorities, it has set a platform leading into the next Federal Election which must be held by May 2019.
Although, on the surface, tonight hasn’t delivered on specific priorities critical to Townsville North Queensland – we will be working through the detail with the Federal Government and believe the framework is there to ensure some of our region's projects become reality.
We welcome the measures to reduce the cost of living for hard working North Queenslanders, incentivise business investment, upgrade the Bruce Highway, ensure free essential health services and keep Australians safe through regional airport border protection funding.
We are currently on the ground in Canberra this week, where over the coming days we will further review the detail on the infrastructure spend and how North Queensland can benefit.
Whilst it is disappointing that there was no announcement specifically towards critical regional enabling infrastructure, such as the Mount Isa to Townsville supply chain, at this stage we will take the Government's word that the door is not closed, and we will continue to work through this issue and the stalement between the State and Federal Governments to ensure an outcome is delivered for North Queensland.
Summary of Key Budget 2018/19 announcements:
BUILDING BETTER REGIONS
- $200M towards a third round of the Building Better Regions Fund, which supports regional infrastructure and community investments. This is in addition to the Regional Growth Fund, which is investing $272M in larger regional infrastructure projects that support long-term economic growth and create jobs in regions undergoing structural adjustment.
- $3.5B Roads of Strategic Importance Initiative. Of that funding, $1.5B allocated to roads in Northern Australia.
- $500M towards Great Barrier Reef protection to ensure the future of the Reef and the jobs it supports through improving water quality, combating crown-of-thorns starfish and conducting scientific research.
- $45M in funding for regional tourism businesses to support the industry to continue to deliver a high quality and diverse visitor experience into the future.
- $24.5B Quality Schools Package towards needs-based funding for Australian schools to achieve the best outcomes for all students.
- $28.2M to expand access to sub-bachelor programs in regional areas, and $14M to fund additional places for bachelor students studying at Regional Study Hubs.
- 5% incremental tax cut over 10 years for small businesses with a turnover of up to $50M/year
- In response to the findings of the 2016 review of the R&D Tax Incentive, the Government will reform the program, sharpening its focus on additional eligible business R&D while ensuring its ongoing fiscal affordability
- Tax concessions tightened for multinationals through stapled structures will ensure foreign investors pay their fair share of tax. This will allow Australian investors to compete on fairer terms with foreign investors, particularly when investing in land-rich investments
- $84M towards rural mental health nurses
Whilst our region is improving economically, we are still sitting above the national average of unemployment with 11,000 people still looking for jobs. We acknowledge that the challenges in our region will not be fixed overnight, but greater public investment into a pipeline of projects will not only create jobs immediately, but set the road-map for our future.
It's an ongoing fight for Townsville Enterprise, our local leadership and the community. We can never rest. We acknowledge that business cases for infrastructure can be quite challenging in Northern Australia, which is why it requires political courage, vision and the joint action of local business and community leadership to bring major projects to fruition.