Thursday 19 June, 2019
As my friend the member for Burnett did earlier today, I thank all of those MPs from both sides of the House who attended the Bundaberg Region Promotion Night last night. Those who could not get there missed out on a fantastic night. From Bundaberg there were 30 local businesses, organisations and not-for-profits, with 100 local people proudly displaying what Bundy does so well. There were some great local hidden gems and some worldwide successes. I thank Freya and Amity, the two young ladies who work in both of our offices, who did all of the heavy lifting to get that event happening last night.
Mr Minnikin: Especially the gin.
Mr BATT: Yes, the gin was a hit!
After last year’s budget I really thought it could not get any worse for my electorate of Bundaberg, but on Tuesday Labor proved me wrong. Over the past few days Bundaberg residents and businesses have expressed their disappointment and frustration at this 2019-20 Labor budget. After five years in government, all Labor is delivering is higher taxes, more debt, fewer jobs and less infrastructure.
This budget rips an extra $1.25 billion in new taxes from the hip-pockets of hardworking Queenslanders. This budget helps push our state towards a record $90 billion debt bomb—debt of about $67,000 for every Queensland family of four. This budget is one of utter neglect. This budget is one that forgets about Bundaberg again.
Labor promised a budget for the regions, a budget for jobs, a budget for infrastructure and a budget for front-line services, but all we are getting is broken promises. Do not just take my word for it. Just today in local Bundaberg media CQ University Professor of Regional Economic Development, Professor John Rolfe, commented on this Labor budget.
The article states— Economic uncertainty has been worsened by the State Budget while funding to the regions appears to have been politically driven in the lead-up to the election.
The article continues— … the Queensland Government had borrowed a lot of money and thrown a few infrastructure projects to the regions to try to keep people happy. Professor Rolfe said— I’m not sure they’ve read the mood of what people want, and I don’t think they really captured what Queensland needs. He also said— It is the poorest budget the Palaszczuk Government has delivered so far.
The article continues— Treasurer Jackie Trad described the budget as one that benefits regional Queensland, but Prof Rolfe said that funding outside of South East Queensland appears to be flowing to marginal electorates, which could prove a difference in next year’s state election. … `The economy is sluggish and that’s because there’s not of lot of new things coming into the economy,’ he said. `There’s not a lot of real spending in the business sector, households are cautious … there’s not a lot of confidence and people are not spending. `I don’t see anything in the budget that’s going to increase the confidence.’
I lost count of the number of times the Treasurer spoke about how this budget is one for the regions. Well, it is certainly not one for the Wide Bay-Burnett region, and Professor Rolfe agrees. For the second year in the row our Wide Bay-Burnett region has been allocated the second lowest capital budget in regional Queensland, despite having the greatest population outside of the south-east. Labor has allocated just 4.5 per cent of its $13 billion capital budget to the Wide Bay-Burnett.
Why is it that Bundaberg does not deserve to be on a level playing field? Why is it that Wide Bay is always left out in the cold? Why is it that the people of Bundaberg do not get their fair share from this Labor government? These are the questions that my community is asking.
A few weeks ago, after over 400 days without a visit, the Premier made a brief, unannounced appearance in Bundy and, while having a one-on-one with our local newspaper, let it slip that a new Bundaberg hospital was getting the green light. Since then it has been impossible to gain any information about the next stage of the process. The government did not even publish a media release to boast about the great news—no major announcement to all media outlets, no fanfare for one of the biggest decisions in Bundaberg’s history. Our community was confused, but we agreed to just wait and see what was in the budget. To our astonishment, it looks like the government has forgotten to include any funding for the hospital’s detailed business case. In the piles and piles of glossy budget papers I cannot find a cent. I can see $6.4 million for Toowoomba Hospital’s detailed business case but nothing for Bundaberg—just one line in the Service Delivery Statements to advise that the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service would continue to progress planning for a new Bundaberg hospital. There was no commitment for a detailed business case as promised by the Premier.
A new hospital is an absolute game-changer for our region. Just like all Queenslanders, we deserve a world-class health system. Obviously Labor does not think so. The Premier’s announcement for a new hospital was something our community was thrilled about. We thought maybe—just maybe— Labor was finally listening, but those hopes have now been diminished. It appears it was just an announcement on the run, without any funding to back it up. I will never stop fighting for a new hospital and my community will never stop calling for one.
Alongside the lack of funds to progress plans for the hospital, Labor has failed to provide any money for the Hinkler Regional Deal, classroom air conditioning, road upgrades, a drug and rehab centre or flood mitigation for the Bundaberg electorate.
As the former deputy mayor and disaster recovery coordinator for Bundaberg’s 2013 major flood event, I am very passionate about flood mitigation. A government’s role is to help communities thrive and prosper into the future, but it has been six years since water roared through our city and we are still waiting for a plan from Labor. After the floods Bundy was left devastated. Families lost all they had. They lost their homes. They lost their belongings. They lost their businesses. They were left with only the clothes on their backs and the shoes on their feet, but since then we have recovered. Everyone stood up, put their brave face on and, arm in arm, we pieced our city back together.
All we want from those opposite is some honesty. Bundaberg is tired of political games. We are tired of broken promises. We are tired of inaction. We need to see real, genuine commitments from the government for flood mitigation and we need them now, before another heartbreaking disaster strikes. Bundy residents deserve that.
This budget also fails to provide any funding for the Hinkler Regional Deal. One of the biggest disappointments is the lack of funding for any of the projects put forward and committed by the federal Morrison LNP government through the member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, under the Hinkler Regional Deal. Some $173 million has been committed by the federal government towards critical infrastructure projects including $32 million for a Quay Street bypass to remove heavy vehicles out of the CBD and $8 million to upgrade Bargara Road and Princess Street. This is the most money we have seen come to this region in a very long time.
These are infrastructure projects that would be game-changers for the Bundaberg region, enabling the commencement of Bundaberg Regional Council’s Riverside Masterplan and CBD redevelopment. There is not one mention from this government to support Bundaberg to get these projects over the line. Only last week the Premier handballed questions about the regional deal to the Treasurer. Including funding in the budget for this deal was Labor’s chance to show those who live in our region that it does care. Once again, we have been neglected.
I, alongside Stephen Bennett, the member for Burnett, and Ted Sorensen, the member for Hervey Bay, will continue to call on those opposite to quit the games and commit funding for the Hinkler Regional Deal.
As well as the lack of funding for this deal, this budget did not include funding for any road upgrades or major roadworks. The only line item in the transport and main roads funding that has been allocated for the Bundaberg electorate is $5 million for ongoing maintenance of the Burnett Traffic Bridge. Road concerns are one of the top issues residents report to my office.
There are a number of intersections and roads that require upgrades, including the FE Walker Street and Ashfield Road intersection, which I have continued to speak about in this House on behalf of concerned residents. I have also submitted a petition on their behalf. Again, it appears that the pleas from Bundaberg residents are falling on deaf ears with the minister.
I am pleased to see that Labor has implemented the payroll tax relief policy that the LNP took to the last election. Some 1,500 small businesses will pay no payroll tax as a result, including several in the Bundaberg electorate. This is indeed good news for them, but with that comes the bad news.
Under Labor’s budget, a further 6,000 larger businesses will be stung with higher payroll tax, including businesses in Bundaberg. Queensland businesses will be taxed more for giving people a job. Just last night at our very popular Bundy promotion night I was told by the head of one of our great success stories, a local business now Australia wide, that the cost of this higher payroll tax to his business is equivalent to employing a new staff member. There is no incentive at all for larger businesses to employ extra people. This tax could even make businesses look at putting off staff to cover the higher payroll tax. It is just robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Another local business also contacted me late yesterday concerned with the ramifications on the absentee surcharge for foreign companies on land tax. Bundaberg Sugar, a large employer in the Bundaberg region and a large landholder since the 1800s—an iconic business across Queensland— will be punished by this tax by getting its land tax doubled from $1.2 million to approximately $2.4 million in one hit to its bottom line. At a time when the sugar industry is looking for any assistance it can find, this Labor government is taxing it out of existence.
I want to acknowledge the funding in the budget for Bundaberg State High School and Branyan Road State School. Both school announcements are a continuation of building enhancements from last year’s budget so they were not unexpected, but nonetheless they are welcomed. The only issue is the way in which the Renewing Our Schools program at Bundaberg State High has been implemented.
The funding for this program was announced two years ago and yet it is still waiting to get a schedule of works supplied to the school and the P&C. P&C President Mrs Diana Buckholz even wrote to the education minister back in April to try to get the process streamlined to assist in the school’s daily activities.
I want to quote a few paragraphs to put on the record the issues the school is having with this project.
Mrs Buckholz wrote— In order to proceed with Stage 1, the refurbishment of Q Block, the Year 8 students who normally use this facility had to be disbursed throughout the school away from their home area and into small, hot classrooms with substandard connectivity. All teachers and teacher-aides also had to be redistributed to alternative staffrooms. It was assumed that this would be a temporary inconvenience and by the end of Term 1, Stage 1 would be complete and students and staff could return to teaching and learning environments they so rightly deserve. Unfortunately, even though demolition works were completed by the specified dates no further works have commenced. It was reported three weeks ago— this is in April— that the delays were due to contractor suitability and the latest update is that there is no specified date for commencement. This is unacceptable for the forty-five staff and Year 8 students who have already had their teaching and learning conditions compromised for Term 1.
The students affected by the Q Block refurbishment were moved out into other less appropriate learning environments at the start of this year in preparation for the work to start, yet here we are some six months later and the P&C and the school have not been told when this work will commence. Six months of rooms sitting vacant. Six months of students in less appropriate rooms to learn in. The school, the students and the P&C deserve an answer.
I conclude with this: the outcome, disappointment and angst this budget will bring to the people of Bundaberg should not be a surprise to this Labor government. It will be of its choosing. The Labor government chose to take another $1.25 billion in tax from Queenslanders. The Labor government chose to cut spending on infrastructure by half a billion dollars in the next financial year. The Labor government chose to create fewer jobs and this Labor government chose to increase Queenslanders’ debt yet again to $90 billion.
Labor is not borrowing to build, but Queenslanders are borrowing to bail out this incompetent government.
It is clear that Queensland cannot afford Labor and Queensland cannot trust Labor either. After this Labor budget I am very confident that the whole of Queensland realises that when Labor runs out of money it comes after yours.
A Deb Frecklington LNP government is the only government that will unite this state and build a better Queensland, from the cities to the bush.