May 10, 2017
The South Burnett gets a few presents in Tuesday night’s Federal Budget, although only a handful are real surprises.
Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien has had election promises fulfilled, including $20 million for a Wide Bay Burnett Jobs Package to encourage business to create jobs, and funding for the Murgon Men’s Shed.
The notorious Wide Bay Highway / Bruce Highway intersection at Bells Bridge has also been allocated $11.2 million for a long overdue upgrade.
Local councils have been allotted funding to improve local roads under the Federal Government’s Roads to Recovery program.
Cherbourg Council will receive $55,510; Gympie Regional Council $1,880,961, and the South Burnett Regional Council $2,285,323.
The resumption of indexation of Federal Government Financial Assistance Grants to councils was welcomed by local MPs.
“Financial Assistance Grants provides vital Federal Government funding to local councils enabling them to deliver better services,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I also welcome the extension of the Building Better Regions Fund and Stronger Communities Programs, and I will advocate strongly to ensure organisations in Wide Bay are able to secure a fair share of these funds.”
The long-discussed Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail link may finally become a reality after it received an $8.4 billion boost with construction due to begin this financial year.
The link will pass via Toowoomba and will require major works and tunnelling in south-east Queensland.
Wellcamp Airport director John Wagner has expressed interest in linking the rail line to the airport.
“We will establish the Regional Investment Corporation, a $4 billion fund to provide finance for farm business and for water infrastructure,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“$2 billion will be allocated to providing concessional loans to our farmers, while the other $2 billion will provide the same for the water infrastructure that can revolutionise local economies.
“These are so important as agriculture has so much upside for growth, if we only get our farmers the water and capital they so need.”
The Regional Investment Corporation will be governed by an independent board and CEO with commercial experience.
The Federal Government has also allocated more than $1 billion to the National Landcare Program.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the program focussed on practical ways to improve issues such as soil health, erosion management and water quality, making the program relevant to all land managers but especially farmers.
“Every farming family I know wants to pass on their land in better shape than when they got it and our investment through this Budget will help them achieve those goals,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce said some of the Landcare funding would also be spent to eradicate imported fire ants from south-east Queensland.
“Sixteen years’ worth of shared eradication and containment efforts can be brought to a close through this investment that will increase the intensity of treatment and surveillance for these ants, considered one of the world’s worst invasive species due to their devastating economic, environmental and social impacts,” he said.
“This is worth doing because modelling shows that without the combined efforts of the states and territories that allowed us to contain this pest the ants would have spread further south than Sydney and north of Rockhampton by now.”
The Budget contains a shake-up of the welfare system.
Newstart will be renamed “Jobseeker Payment”, and five other welfare payments will be rolled into it.
Alcoholism and drug addiction will no longer be considered a reason for receiving the Disability Support Pension, and 5000 job seekers will also be randomly tested for illegal drugs such as ice and cannabis.
Welfare recipients who fail the drug tests will have their payments quarantined for use only on food, electricity and housing, and could be ordered to seek treatment.
Job seekers who miss Centrelink or job appointments will have their payments cancelled after three “strikes”.
Businesses who have become accustomed to hiring foreign workers to fill labour market gaps may also have to think twice.
Visa requirements have been tightened for skilled workers and businesses who hire them may have to pay an annual fee of up to $1800.