The Hon Jackie Trad's first State Budget has delivered a pipeline of infrastructure and capital works projects throughout North Queensland, as well as a range of small business support programs. However, it is important to acknowledge that several of our region's key priorities, as outlined in our Budget Submission, are still yet to receive commitments and should remain firmly on the Government's radar.
Today's budget was clearly focused upon delivering the commitments made in the last State Election seven months ago, whilst capitalising on the opportunities provided through a significant windfall in resource royalties.
The election commitments of $3.1M towards the Lithium-Ion Battery Plant feasibility study, $75M towards the Port's Channel Widening and $225M towards the Haughton Pipeline Duplication Project all featured in today's budget. This is a budget that builds upon our basic necessities of essential health services, education opportunities and infrastructure requirements, but there is clearly still a task at hand towards receiving commitments towards key priorities that will not only create jobs immediately, but set the roadmap for our future.
During the Treasurer's address, the critical importance of Queensland's resources sector was highlighted, where the industry was acknowledged as a key component of the State's economy. The Treasurer identified that Queensland's resources industry has helped triple the state budget's forecast operating surplus to $1.5 billion, and that the surplus was $1 billion more than initially forecast in December's Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Review. This boost has been driven by high coal and gas royalties.
This is why further infrastructure investment to support the resources sector is so critical and why it remains a high priority on our advocacy agenda. In terms of the Mount Isa to Townsville rail corridor, whilst it is positive to see the $75M towards the Port's Channel upgrade and $10M to protect the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC), it is important to note that the cost of access and the full upgrade of the line still hasn't been addressed. However, the door is not closed and we will continue to work through this issue and the stalemate between the State and Federal Governments to ensure an outcome is delivered for North Queensland.
Summary of Key Budget 2018/19 announcements
- $1.342B towards North Queensland road upgrades over four years. Of that funding, $181.7M will be spent on North Queensland roads in 2018-19. Allocations include:
- $37.7M in 2018-19 (total spend $514.3M) towards Bruce Highway between Ayr and Townsville (bridge construction, cane tramway overpasses and intersection upgrades, including the Haughton River floodplain upgrade)
- $14.8M in 2018-19 (total spend $42.3M) towards widening of Gregory Developmental Road between Charters Towers and the Lynd
- $8M in 2018-19 (total spend $17M) towards pavement strengthening and rehabilitation works for Flinders Highway between Townsville and Charters Towers
$431K in 2018-19 (total spend $615,980) to install fibre optic cables in Charters Towers to establish a Smart City Infrastructure Network initially supporting free community Wi-Fi hotspots and improved safety via security cameras.
- $200M over three years to extend Works for QLD program job creating maintenance and minor infrastructure works across regional Queensland (total program funding is now $600M over five years from 2016-17)
- $30M over four years to establish manufacturing hubs in Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton
- Increased funding of $65M over four years towards Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund (projects seeking to diversify economic activity by harnessing growth in emerging industries and value adding to existing industries)
- $20M towards Jobs and Regional Growth Fund
$10M over four years towards Defence supply chain logistics hubs in Townsville (2017-18 to 2020-21)
- $10.2M towards additional frontline staff at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre
- $3.9M towards intervention strategies under the local Community Youth Response initiative
$72.5M towards the Joint Field Management Program for reef protection measures and to extend the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program
- Pimlico State High School receiving a share of $250M with more than 60 other Queensland State High Schools towards additional classrooms
- Townsville TAFE allocated a share of $26M towards redevelopment and expansion
Extension of the payroll tax rebate initiative (maintaining it at 50 per cent until 30 June 2019) for small businesses employing apprentices and trainees
- $5.5M in 2018-19 (total spend $334M) towards Townsville Hospital expansion
- $3.3M Townsville Hospital Children's Ward
- $2.4M second MRI unit at Townsville Hospital
- $16.5M Palm Island Primary Care Centre
- $400K towards Palm Island Sports Precinct refurbishment
- $919K towards crocodile management strategy
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 in the end, its about providing community needed infrastructure across the North which will generate the employment opportunities we need now more than ever.
That's why it requires long-term vision and the joint action of local businesses and community leadership to bring these major projects to fruition. It is an ongoing fight for Townsville Enterprise, our local leadership and the community. There is still much work to be done.