Federal Budget offers some good news for Sunshine Coast

The Federal Budget released on April 2, 2019 contains a number of measures which will be welcomed by Sunshine Coast residents and businesses alike.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Morrison Government is to be congratulated to be in a position to forecast a surplus of $7.1 billion next year – the first in 12 years.

“Living within its means is a fundamental tenant that should be the goal of every tier of government and it is pleasing to see the Federal Government moving towards this milestone,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“It is a principle that our Sunshine Coast Council has held to firmly over the last seven years and it is reassuring the Federal Government is striving to do likewise.

“This will help to provide a platform for sustainable investment in much needed infrastructure and the services that our growing community requires,” Mayor Jamieson said.

Mayor Jamieson noted that the Sunshine Coast had fared well in the previous two budgets, with commitments to the expansion of the Bruce Highway and a contribution towards the duplication of the North Coast Rail Line – which have been maintained in the 2019 budget.

“I am concerned however, that the funding associated with these commitments will be delivered over a lengthy period of time – namely, through to 2024 for the North Coast Rail Line and to 2026 for the Bruce Highway expansion,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“While this provides greater clarity than in previous budgets and I appreciate these projects take time to deliver, it does make it more difficult to ensure the Queensland Government locks in its share towards these projects.

“I am pleased however, that additional funding of $91.4 million has been secured for the upgrade of the Bruce Highway – Maroochydore Road Interchange and congratulate Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien for achieving this further commitment towards this $301 million project.

Other road infrastructure commitments such as $12 million for the Mooloolaba Access upgrade and the Caloundra Road Network Planning Study, will also assist in addressing congestion in areas of the region’s major road network that are experiencing significant pressure, although little information has been provided on these commitments in the Budget papers.

The Federal Budget also maintained the financial commitment towards the Business Case for a fast rail solution between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, to which Council is also a contributor.

“This is an important project not only for the Sunshine Coast but for South East Queensland and I look forward to the completion of the Business Case later this year,” Mayor Jamieson said.

Mayor Jamieson also welcomed measures that will assist those members of our community most in need, particularly older residents and those people on fixed or lower incomes.

“Australia’s spending on pensions as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is approximately half that of the OECD average and given the challenges associated with the rising cost of living, it is important that a fair society like Australia helps those most in need,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Measures like the one-off energy supplement for pensioners, carers, veterans and single parents and the bringing forward of tax cuts for low to middle income earners are great news for our residents.

“This will certainly help many families across the Sunshine Coast make ends meet and assist some of our residents who are most in need to manage rapidly rising electricity prices.

“I am hopeful we will see more initiatives like this from the major parties during the forthcoming Federal election campaign.

Mayor Jamieson said council will also be looking at a range of potential projects that it could submit for funding under the new, $100 million Environment Restoration Fund.

“This new funding stream will help improve water quality and manage erosion in coasts and waterways, support the recovery and recycling of waste and protect threatened species and their habitats.

“There are a number of initiatives that council is seeking to deliver under its Environment and Livability Strategy and we will be targeting this Fund to assist with their delivery.”

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) will also benefit from the increase and expansion of the instant asset write off scheme and the additional $60 million for export market development grants, which enable SMEs to access export opportunities arising from the Commonwealth’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

“I have long advocated for more assistance for small business to understand the opportunities associated with the FTAs and to access new export markets, so this commitment is one that should be well received by local business on the Sunshine Coast,” Mayor Jamieson said.

Mayor Jamieson expressed his disappointment that the Federal Government had not taken the opportunity to restore the value of the Financial Assistance Grants to local government to 1% of total Commonwealth taxation revenue – a commitment that has been sought by councils across Australia.

“For our council, increasing the Financial Assistance Grant would mean approximately an additional $9.5 million (based on the value of the 2018-2019 Grant), which is funding Council could invest in community grants, local sport and recreation facilities and other community programs and services.

“Local government already has responsibility for 33% of the nation’s infrastructure including 76% of the nation’s roads, so it is only fair and reasonable that the annual Financial Assistance Grants be at least 1% of total Commonwealth taxation revenue.

“While the additional funding commitment to the Roads to Recovery program is good news for councils, a clear undertaking to restore the value of the Financial Assistance Grants to 1% of Commonwealth taxation revenue would be a direct investment back into local communities,” Mayor Jamieson said.

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