Jun 24, 2019

State spending smarts questioned

State spending smarts questioned

Budget wins would be hollow if project funds went to line the pockets of contractors outside regional areas said The North Queensland Civil Contractors Association.

Cairns registered the largest percentage budget increase outside Brisbane according to Cummings Economics.

It was up from a low per capita level, said Principal Bill Cummings.

The increase for the Cairns regional area was up to $2,512 from $1,635 in the 2018-19 financial year. Townsville was up $3,234 from $3,113 and Mackay increased from $2626 to $2,679 per capita in the 2019-20 financial year.

The recognition was welcome and overdue said president of the North Queensland civil Contractors Association Phil Cassell.

“We are concerned that Mackay in particular received only a marginal increase and the Cairns increase brings it up to par with other regions,” Mr Cassell said. “Either way, it is a Pyrrhic victory if the budget allocations to projects are used to pay contractors outside the region.”

“The lever is there with the state’s Procurement Policy and what we need is the intent to back up the objectives.

“If the Procurement Policy was implemented then the budget allocations would be capitalised and so too would the benefits.”

The lack of commitment to the Procurement Policy was recently the subject of rallies in Brisbane advocating for similar outcomes.

It was a matter of how the money was spent as much as how it was allocated, said Mr Cassell.

“There are two things here. Firstly Federal budget allocations need to line up with state priorities otherwise it is kicked down the road. That is happening now with roads funding where project priorities fail to align.

“Secondly, any dollar spent locally has a multiplier effect. So someone gets a wage, they buy a house and invest their money locally raising a family. That person needs to be trained so those skills add to the region’s social capital. When tier one contractors get the work, the flow-on benefits leave when they do.

“We need to keep it local.”

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