By Bryce Prosser
One of the cornerstones of today’s Queensland State Budget, delivered by Treasurer Pitt, is the $180 million Advance Queensland initiative which the Treasurer announced will be an "investment in innovation, in skills, in education, in business development and in a startup culture to deliver knowledge-based jobs now and into the future".
The emphasis of Treasurer Pitt’s first Budget has been on job creation, attracting investment and supporting innovation in Queensland.
According to the Budget Papers, Queensland’s finances are also improving with a projected 2014-15 budget surplus of $962 million, rising to a $1.2 billion surplus in 2015-16.
Over the next two years the Queensland economy is also expected to show strong growth at 4.5 per cent dropping to 3.75 per cent in 2017-18.
Despite a strengthening economy, employment will only show modest improvement over the next few years rising a forecast 1.25 per cent in 2015-16 and 2.0 per cent in 2017-18. However unemployment over this period is expected to remain above 6 per cent.
In this year’s Queensland Budget a number of small business initiatives have been announced, including the creation of a Red Tape Reduction Council to advise government on how to reduce regulatory burden on Queensland small businesses and the Queensland Small Business Advisory Council to advise on sector issues, an additional $4.7 million in 2015-16 to fund the Business Industry Portal to provide a one-stop-shop for business and industry in interacting with government.
Another new initiative is the Home Based Business Program as part of the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow initiative which will provide $1million over the next three years to support stay at home parents to establish and develop home based businesses.
Payroll tax rebate for apprentices and trainees
Employers who hire apprentices and trainees will receive a payroll tax rebate of 25 per cent on their wages, with their wages also exempt from payroll tax up to 30 June 2018.
Advance Queensland Strategy
The $180 million Advance Queensland Strategy is a central focus for this Budget.
This fund is divided into a number of programs, including:
- $50 million Best and Brightest Fund designed to attract and retain world-class scientific and entrepreneurial talent in Queensland
- $46 million towards the Future Jobs Strategy that is to examine new industry and research collaborations, look at major innovation issues, and deliver 10-year road maps for industries with global growth potential
- $76 million Business Investment Attraction package – designed to encourage startups, provide new small business opportunities, support proof-of-concept projects and attract co-investment. This fund is divided between $24 million for a Startup Queensland initiative and $52 million to improve access to finance and management support for SMEs and startups.
Boosting skills and training
Jobs and skills are one of the key pillars of this year’s Queensland Budget. Several of the major initiatives include:
- Re-introduction of the Skilling Queenslanders for Work initiative with funding of $240 million over four years to support around 32,000 Queenslanders back into work.
- $40 million over four years to establish Jobs Queensland. Jobs Queensland will be an independent statutory authority providing advice to government on skills demand and long term workforce planning.
- $34.5 million over the next four years to help TAFE Queensland deliver foundation courses and increase the number of qualifications available through VET in schools.
Increased spending on infrastructure
A number of initiative have been announced for Queensland’s infrastructure with an overall $10.1 billion capital program listed as part of this Budget. Several key announcements include:
- The establishment of Building Queensland – a new independent statutory body to deliver a whole-of-government perspective to Queensland infrastructure planning and investment. Building Queensland will also be responsible for developing a Queensland Infrastructure Plan to help inform major investments.
- $500 million State-wide Schools and Hospitals Fund with a focus on health refurbishment and education capital and maintenance projects.
Support for rural and regional Queensland
A range of initiatives have been announced to support rural and regional Queensland including:
- $90 million over four years for the construction of a new primary school in north-west Townsville and planning for a new High School
- $200 million over two years to fund a Regions-Regional Infrastructure Fund
- $40 million towards the Western Roads Upgrade Program
- $24 million to support regional transport
- Cyclone Marcia Special Assistance package of $40 million over two years
- A $48.4 million drought relief package
- $8.1 million over three years to implement the Government’s Food and Fibre Plan
- Funding for the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative to match the Commonwealth Government’s funding, and
- $3.4 million to continue upgrading the Longreach Pastoral College and Emerald Agricultural College to support Queensland’s rural training
Today the Queensland Government announced that it will be providing and additional $2.3 billion for frontline services and improved health outcomes.
Several of the key initiatives include $101 million to employ an additional 400 Nurse Navigators in Hospital and Health Services, $27 million towards a diabetes prevention program, funding to assist in establishing the Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital, $361 million over four years for the Outpatient Long Wait Strategy and an additional $36 million in ambulance funding.
Education and training was also seen as a priority area for the Queensland Government, especially the priority tasks of skilling students and supporting teachers. Several of the key initiatives include around $250 million for additional teachers to reduce class sizes and support high schools, over $430 million in capital funding for education facilities, $300 million for school maintenance programs and $6 million to develop a new teacher classification system and pay structure.