Queensland budget focuses on employment

Qld parliament-min

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt has brought down the Palaszczuk Government’s first budget, with spending of $49.9 billion and a $1.2 billion surplus. It has been generally well received, except – predictably – by the Liberal National Party opposition.

It is in many ways a traditional ALP budget, with its headline focus on “jobs, health and education.” There were few surprises or controversies. The major commitment is to the government’s ‘Working Queensland’ employment plan, with a new statutory authority called Jobs Queensland. The catchphrase “jobs now, jobs for the future” is repeated ad nauseum throughout the budget announcements.

“A key element of this Budget’s $1.6 billion jobs plan is the Skilling Queenslanders for Work initiative, which will support some 32,000 Queenslanders back into work,” said Mr Pitt. “This budget also delivers on our election commitments to increase health and education funding – with record budgets for these key service delivery portfolios.”

Mr Pitt said the Working Queensland jobs plan would focus on skills, training and innovative industries to promote jobs, growth and investment. “It has five key priorities: skills and training, enhancing business productivity, boosting government services, fostering emerging and innovative industries and growing our regions.

“The Skilling Queenslanders for Work initiative is exactly what the Queensland economy needs – it is designed to return $8 into the economy for every $1 invested. The budget also delivers an additional $34.5 million in funding to restore TAFE over the next four years.”

Mr Pitt said Queensland Treasury was forecasting a $1.2 billion operating surplus in 2015-16 and $6.9 billion across the forward estimates. He said state debt would be reduced by $9.6 billion over three years by moving $4.1 billion of that debt to government-owned electricity companies.

Specific initiatives:

  • A $14.2 billion health budget, an increase of 4 per cent., with a commitment of an additional $2.3 billion over four years.
  • $12.4 billion for education and training, plus a $754.6 million for vocational education and training.
  • $4.8 billion for regional and rural Queensland, including $200 million for the Building Our Regions infrastructure fund.
  • $500 million in new funding over four years for a statewide Schools and Hospitals
  • $347 million – Queensland pensioner and Seniors Card holder concessions.
  • $31.3 million in extra funding over four years to tackle domestic violence.
  • $30 million funding over two years towards building a new State Netball Centre.

Mr Pitt said the Budget would also provide important support for business by “making good on our promise to deliver a payroll tax rebate for apprentices and trainees, resulting in an
estimated $45 million in tax savings for businesses to reinvest. Small business will be supported via initiatives such as the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow fund, which will help stay-at-home parents grow their home-based businesses.

“The budget also recognises the importance of local infrastructure and local jobs. In a decentralised state like Queensland, government building projects help deliver employment when and where it’s most needed. The budget includes a $10.1 billion spend on infrastructure across Queensland this year, directly supporting an estimated 27,500 jobs.”

Many ministers released statements of their own after the budget’s details were announced, just in case we missed anything. A smattering of the announcement headlines gives the flavour:

  • $6.9 billion in surpluses forecast over next four years
  • Regional and rural Queensland benefit from additional Budget funding
  • Key initiatives aim to deliver better outcomes for Indigenous Queenslanders
  • State Budget delivers $173 million in funding for the arts
  • TAFE Queensland restored as premier provider
  • $1 million to support home-based entrepreneurs
  • Budget delivers maintenance funding for Queensland schools
  • State’s most vulnerable benefit with early NDIS launch and seniors boost
  • More than $930 million to help protect vulnerable Queensland children.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg, leader of an LNP still shell-shocked from losing its massive majority at the state election, will deliver his reply to the budget on the evening of Thursday 16 July.

For responses to the Queensland budget, see separate article here.

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