The Queensland Major Contractors Association has welcomed what it describes as a largely positive State Budget, with the government stepping up its debt to keep the infrastructure pipeline flowing.
Payroll tax breaks for small business have also drawn praise from the business community.
Treasurer Jackie Trad today described the 2019 Budget as ‘a Budget for regional Queensland’.
It would see $49.5 billion allocated to infrastructure across the state over the next four years, she said.
“This year the capital program will invest almost $13 billion in job generating infrastructure, directly supporting more than 40,000 jobs,” she said.
“And more than 25,000 or 63 per cent of those jobs will be in regions outside of Greater Brisbane. This contrasts sharply with the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, which is yet to spend a single cent – or deliver a single new job – in regional Queensland.”
She highlighted support for projects including continuing the work on the Mackay Ring Road, expanding the Townsville Port, upgrading the RG Tanna Coal Terminal in Gladstone, building the new North Queensland Stadium and improving regional roads including the Kennedy Development Road and the Barkly Highway from Mount Isa to Cloncurry.
“Our commitment to keep building job-generating infrastructure and capital projects will see our borrowing with Queensland Treasury Corporation remain at affordable levels – $72 billion in 2019-20,” she said.
QMCA chief executive officer Jon Davies said that organisation believed it was appropriate for the State to increase debt to fund infrastructure as there were positive business gains.
“I think on the whole it is a positive Budget,” he said.
“…The only thing we were a little disappointed with from a rail point of view is there was no funding for the Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3 and no additional funding for the Beerburrum to Nambour Upgrade,” he said.
He noted there were no new major infrastructure project commitments in regional Queensland – rather a string of existing commitments, such as the Mackay Ring Road, which had been allocated further funding towards completion.
While the QMCA supported the increase in debt levels to back infrastructure investment in this case, he said it held concerns about debt continuing to rise in the longer term.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) said it was pleased to see the government had listened to its key policy submission on relief of payroll tax, seeing the threshold lift from $1.1 million to $1.3 million.
CCIQ head of media Dan Petrie said the move on payroll tax reflected a concerted effort from Chambers of Commerce throughout the state.
“Payroll tax relief for small business in terms of a threshold increase is absolutely crucial in boosting employment whilst the discount for regional areas recognises the need to lift confidence in the private sector.
“Big ticket infrastructure items are obvious positives in terms of elevated economic activity and the rebates for continuing apprentices and trainees are cash flow positive for the SME sector.
“The government’s budgetary challenges are still significant with funds for investment in the wider economy becoming harder to find, with 40 per cent over the state’s recurrent expenditure allocated public service expenses.”