Advocacy Alert: What the 2020 Federal Budget means for the North

Tonight the Morrison Government has delivered arguably one of the most important Federal Budgets in our history. It's a budget that focuses on expediting COVID-19 economic recovery through fast-tracked investment in job creating infrastructure, wage subsidies, business incentives, and tax relief initiatives that aim to grow jobs and importantly stimulate renewed private sector investment through improved business confidence.

This is a budget focused on getting business back to business. Rather than austerity and increasing taxes, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government is tackling the debt by growing the economy, and we have seen that tonight through a solid business incentives package.

The targeted subsidies for workers, especially young people, is important for North Queensland's youth unemployment which in recent years has been the highest in the nation, then was adversely impacted by the floods in 2019 and then compounded with COVID-19 this year.

There is also a strong focus upon infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, water, lower energy prices, tourism, and unlocking gas potential. There is a clear pivot from business survival and JobKeeper to boosting business recovery and jobs ensuring both people and the economy get back to work, which aligns with the platform we have been strongly promoting.

Over the past seven months, the North Queensland community has been sending consistent and clear messages to our Federal leaders defining our region's key priorities. This has been articulated through the 'Unlock the North' campaign in partnership with TaskforceNQ and NQROC, our Economic Action Plan delivered to the government in the first week of the pandemic, and ongoing engagement with our local Federal representatives, Member for Herbert Phil Thompson, Senator Susan McDonald and Member for Dawson George Christensen.

As a result we have secured funding commitments and support to not only just weather the immediate COVID-19 storm, but build future resilience towards critical infrastructure. This includes $30M for construction of Big Rocks Weir at Charters Towers, $76M for Riverway Drive Stage 2, $1.5M towards walking trails on Magnetic Island, $20M towards identifying priority sections of the Bruce Highway, as well as the committed $195M from the previous budget still be delivered to Townsville.

We know a Strong North is a Strong Nation and by leveraging our region's strengths and economic diversity across mining, agriculture, Defence, education, health, natural resources, and tourism assets, we have the potential to stimulate economic recovery and growth not just for North Queensland but the nation. We will continue to review tonight's announcements and unpack the budget in full over the coming days.

Summary of Key 2020/21 Federal Budget announcements:
  • Record budget deficit of $213.7B for 2020/21
  • Net debt $703B this year, peaking at $966B in 2024
  • Unemployment to peak at 8% in December quarter. Expected to fall to 5.5% by 2023/24
  • Economy is forecast to grow 4.75% in 2021/22

INFRASTRUCTURE

$14B billion spent on new and accelerated infrastructure projects:

  • Fast tracking road and rail projects worth $7.5B: This includes $76M Stage 2 of Riverway Drive Upgrade and $20M into a study to identify priority sections of the Bruce Highway between Curra and Cairns
  • $1B for road safety upgrades administered through Councils
  • The $5B Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) will be reformed to provide more flexibility and widen the scope of projects eligible for funding across northern Australia.

TAX
Tax cuts fast-tracked to drive business investment and job creation

  • Income tax cuts brought forward and backdated to July 1
  • Low and middle income earners of up to $90,000/year will receive a $1,080 tax offset; people earning over $90,000/year will pocket up to $2,160, and $2656 for workers on $140,000/year
  • $26.7B instant asset write-off for small, medium and large businesses expanded until June 2022 with turnover of less than $5B.

TOURISM

  • $61.7M tourism package: $20M for Great Barrier Reef conservation work including $1.5M for Magnetic Island walking trails, $5M towards the ReefHQ upgrade, and $3.2M in support for tourism operators to conduct reef monitoring activity.
  • $200M for an additional round (5) of the Building Better Regions Fund to deliver targeted support for regional tourism.
  • $50M Regional Tourism Recovery initiative to assist businesses in regions that are heavily reliant on international tourism.

MANUFACTURING
$1.3B Manufacturing Strategy to partner with private investors across three manufacturing streams.

  • The money will be spent over four years after the road maps are complete. The strategy targets six priority areas including mining, food and drink, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence and space.
    Industry-led teams of experts will design road maps for each area by April next year, with goals for the next two, five and 10 years.
  • A further $107.2M will identify supply chain vulnerabilities of critical goods and services with medicines and medical equipment the initial focus.
  • A manufacturing modernisation program will be extended by a further $52.8M, with industry expected to spend $3 for every dollar the government invests.
  • The scheme will fast-track technology upgrades and allow up to 150 local businesses invest in ready-to-start projects.

ENERGY

  • $53M for gas infrastructure. This will be underpinned by the government's technology roadmap, which has named hydrogen, energy storage, low carbon steel and aluminium, carbon capture and soil carbon as priority emerging technologies.
  • Unlocking gas production in the Bowen and Galilee Basins

JOBS & TRAINING

  • An additional $1.2B to support Australian businesses to employ 100,000 new apprentices or trainees. 50% wage subsidy for businesses who employ them.
  • $1B investment in a JobTrainer program to provide 340 training places across the country for school leavers, as well as upskilling and retraining job seekers in areas of demand.
  • $240M towards female workforce participation
  • The $86B JobKeeper program is currently set to continue to deliver support to eligible employees until March next year. For full-time workers, the fortnightly payment has been reduced from $1,500 to $1,200, while for part-time workers it has been decreased to $750. JobSeeker payments have been reduced by $300 a fortnight with the supplement set to continue until 1 January next year.

HEALTH

  • Additional $3.9B for NDIS
  • $16B towards ongoing COVID-19 health support measures

REGIONAL AREAS

  • $5.7M Building Resilient Leaders Initiative to support strong local voices and provide training, design and funding to the regions
  • $100M for new 2-year Regional Recovery Partnerships or projects in areas hit by drought, bushfires and coronavirus

CONNECTIVITY

  • National broadband network will receive a $4.5B upgrade by 2023. Including:
  • $30M additional funding in a regional connectivity program to support the delivery of reliable, affordable and innovative digital services in regions (total investment = $83M).
  • $800M aimed at helping individuals and businesses working online in the digital economy.

AGRICULTURE & WATER

  • $2B for vital water infrastructure towards dams, weirs and pipelines

HOUSING

  • 10,000 more places offered in First Home Loan Deposit Scheme.

DEFENCE

  • Bringing forward $1B of planned Defence spending and support for exiting personnel

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TONIGHT'S FEDERAL BUDGET

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