Infrastructure projects are the big focus of Queensland’s budget, with $42.75 billion committed to transport, roads, education and health facilities, and the energy and water sectors over the next four years.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the budget, which sees a small surplus of $146 million for 2017-18, would support 40,000 jobs in the 2017-18 financial year, including 22,000 in regional Queensland. Cyclone Debbie was said to have hampered efforts to provide a larger surplus.
Transport and roads
Transport is a big winner, with multiple public transport and roads projects funded.
Most notable is the government agreeing to fully commit to the $5.409 billion required to deliver the Cross River Rail Project in South-East Queensland, with $2.8 billion provided over the forward estimates, an extra $1.95 billion on top of $850 million funded in previous budgets. Currently the federal government has contributed just $10 million towards the project.
Transport minister and deputy premier Jackie Trad said it was a record spend of close to $21 billion of investment over the next four years through the Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program, which would generate 17,000 direct jobs.
“In my portfolio we are heavily investing in public transport with the 2017-18 Budget allocating $233.5 million to complete Stage 2 of the Gold Coast Light Rail,” she said.
“There will be a $240 million injection over four years to deliver the infrastructure that will ensure a more reliable, safe and accessible public transport network.
“There will also be $16.6 million for eligible bus operators as part of the Queensland School Bus Upgrade Scheme.”
Roads funding for 2017-18 includes $252.5 million towards the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, $236.3 million towards the Gateway Motorway North six laning, $120 million to duplicate Bruce Highway between Caloundra Road and Sunshine Motorway and $70 million towards construction of Mackay Ring Road.
Other infrastructure priorities include schools and hospitals.
“There is $604 million for school facilities and $916 million for health capital works across Queensland,” Mr Pitt said.
$500 million of school funding is going to two new high schools and the expansion of a primary school in inner-city Brisbane.
There will be $225 million over four years to support water security in Townsville. An intergovernmental Water Taskforce has been established to review options to secure long-term water supply for Townsville, following the launch of Australia’s first City Deal in the region
$200 million will go towards improving the safety of the Burdekin Falls Dam, which will also support a proposed hydro-electric power station in the area.
An extra $30 million will see the First Home Owners’ Grant continue to be set at $20,000 (up from $15,000) for a further six months to 31 December 2017. The increased grant will be available for transactions entered into from 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017, for buying or building new houses, units or townhouses valued at less than $750,000.
A 10-year housing strategy was also announced, focusing on the renewal and further development of social and affordable housing.
“This year’s budget sets in motion an historic $1.6 billion investment to build at least 5000 new homes over the next 10 years,” housing and public works minister Mick de Brenni said.
“This investment will require an army of plumbers, carpenters, electricians, concreters, bricklayers and finishing trades.”
- See Boost to affordable housing in Queensland’s $1.8 billion 10-year strategy
The government is also levying a 1.5 per cent land tax surcharge on absent land tax payers.
“The surcharge ensures that absentee owners of land are making a fair contribution and it has no direct impact on Queenslanders,” Mr Pitt said.
The Powering Queensland Plan has $1.16 billion committed to transition to 50 per cent renewables and enable “an affordable, secure and sustainable energy supply”. Most of the funding ($771 million) is spent covering the cost of Queensland’s Solar Bonus Scheme, which provides a 44c/kWh feed-in-tariff for solar systems installed before 10 July 2012 until 1 July 2028.
The government said it was another record spend on the environment, with almost $275 million over five years committed.
There will be $35 million a year for five years to help improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, which environment minister Steven Miles said was above the $100 million already committed to address recommendations arising from the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce.
“We need cleaner water for a healthy reef, and our ongoing commitment will help achieve water quality targets through effective programs such as best practice management,” he said.
There will be $15 million over three years to “begin the task of reducing carbon emissions”, and $3.2 million for delivery of the Government’s Protected Area Strategy and the continued management of Nature Refuge Agreements.
Other commitments include $8.1 million for 25 more Indigenous land and sea rangers, and $2.5 million to implement a container refund scheme and plastic bag ban from 2018.
“Almost one billion single use plastic shopping bags are used in Queensland each year,” Mr Miles said.
“Come 1 July 2018, these bags will be banned in Queensland and a container refund scheme for beverage containers will be in place.”
$23.3 million over four years and $5 million ongoing will go to help enforce environmental regulations.
“The environmental regulator will target areas of environmental risk and improve engagement with industry and the community,” Mr Miles said.