Queensland's mixed responses to Federal budget

QUEENSLAND'S peak business body has touted the 2015 Federal budget as the most "small-business friendly" in 20 years.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland's Nick Behrens said 389,000 businesses and more than one million employees would benefit through numerous measures from the budget.

"When coupled with the range of stimulus measures, small business is obviously the biggest winner from this budget," Mr Behrens said.

"The $20,000 instant asset write-off not only minimises tax liability but equally promotes businesses to spend on assets that benefit other businesses."

But the state's 25,000 small to medium businesses missed out on the benefits.

Mr Behrens said it was disappointing Queensland had missed out on several pieces of infrastructure.

RECOGNISING THE REGIONS

SEVERAL budget measures have ensured regional Queenslanders were not forgotten, according to the Local Government Association of Queensland.

LGAQ chief Greg Hallam said the one-off doubling of Roads to Recovery funding this year would help local economies.

He cited $40 million towards upgrading airstrips and subsidising remote air services, $100 million upgrading and maintaining northern Australia's beef transport roads and $333 million support package for drought-ravaged regions as some top programs.

"But it is disappointing that the government has failed to heed local government's calls to reverse last year's decision to freeze indexation of financial assistance grants," Mr Hallam said.

Funding pledged for 'Australia's most dangerous highway'
Funding pledged for 'Australia's most dangerous highway'

ROADS & INFRASTRUCTURE

MOTORING body RACQ has praised the Federal government's 10-year commitment to the Bruce Hwy, but was disappointed about fuel excise indexing.

RACQ executive manager public policy Michael Roth said the $6.7 billion long-term promise was integral to fixing "Australia's most dangerous highway", the Bruce Hwy.

"The pledging of $500 million for 2015/16 in last night's Budget is a strong kick-start to this rebuilding of the Bruce Hwy," he said.

"We also welcome the progress on the $1.28 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, the $508 million Warrego Hwy upgrade."

But Mr Roth condemned the government's decision to keep fuel excise indexation in the budget.

Mr Roth said RACQ was disappointed that the indexing of the fuel excise remained a Federal Budget measure despite its long term impact on the cost of motoring in Australia.

"We're absolutely against this as we know those hardest hit are in outer suburbs and regional areas where travel distances are longer and access to public transport limited," he said.

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt has slammed the budget for ignoring crucial infrastructure, such as the Sunshine Coast rail line.

He described the northern infrastructure fund as a loan scheme with no detail.

80% of Queensland is now officially drought declared.
80% of Queensland is now officially drought declared. Kevin Farmer

LIVING ON THE LAND

THE devil appears to be in the detail for the budget's extension of concessional loans for drought-ravaged farmers.

Agforce chief Charles Burke cautiously welcomed the decision, but said many of the loans' elements needed to be reviewed, such as interest rates and loan lengths.

Mr Burke said what the agriculture industry was really looking forward to was the Northern Australia and the Agricultural Competitiveness white papers.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said if the papers had been released it could have allowed "open and meaningful discussions".

He said instead there was no commitment for Queensland for the emergency water infrastructure rebate.

Think Stock

HEALTH &EDUCATION

QUEENSLAND Treasurer Curtis Pitt has found little positive in the budget, saying Commonwealth budget papers show the state will be $924 million worse off in hospitals funding and $466 million worse off in school funding over the next three years.

He said those figures compared to the specific purpose payments in last year's federal budget.

But the LNP Opposition has accused the Palaszczuk government of "crying wolf" over "significant amounts of money".

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said Queensland hospitals would receive $819 million and schools would receive $876 million to 2018/19.

Nationwide, health bodies have had varied responses.

The Public Health Association of Australia has described the budget as a bloodbath, while the Medical Research Future Fund Action Group has welcomed boosts.

STRUGGLE STREET

THE poor could simply get poorer off this budget, according to the Queensland Council of Social Services.

The organisation's chief, Mark Henley, said the budget did not offer a long-term solution for disadvantaged people, but he welcomed "some relief to the age pension".

Non-profit organisation Social Ventures Australia has welcomed shortening the waiting period to access unemployment benefits from six months to four weeks.

The Federal budget has set aside $950,000 for the group that works with young people in disadvantaged communities as part of the $330 million Youth Employment Strategy.

SVA said it was concerned Newstart eligibility would rise from 22 to 25 years, causing a rise in unemployment.

Australian Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters described the budget as a missed opportunity to address Queensland's domestic violence crisis, with the government failing to reverse all of its cuts to domestic violence services from last year.

Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef. C Veron

NOT SO ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY

WWF Australia has condemned this last budget before UNESCO decides if the Great Barrier Reef should be listed "in danger".

The environmental group said only 20% of the $500 million funding needed was allocated to fight chemical pollution flowing into the reef.

Australian Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said the available funding was "a far cry" from the recommendation of various natural resource management groups who had proposed "$785 million for reef water quality".

"While the drought relief for Queensland farmers is welcome, with the declaration of an El Nino, it's even more frustrating that the budget ignores climate change and continues to shovel generous subsidies to fossil fuel companies," Senator Waters said.

- APN NEWSDESK



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