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Queensland regions buttered up with infrastructure cash splash

Regional Queensland voters who delivered Scott Morrison his “miracle” election victory are being wooed with an infrastructure cash splash ahead of a looming pandemic-era election.

The Treasurer on Tuesday night declared the regions wouldn’t be “taken for granted” as he unveiled a roads and projects blitz in the battle ground Sunshine State.

In a pitch aimed at Central and Northern Queenslanders, the Budget locked in funding for a slew of projects – including a massive $1.6bn infrastructure spend revealed by The Courier-Mail on Monday.

But only $808.5m of the new money will be spent over the next four years, as the government stressed 20 per cent of all infrastructure spending in Australia would be in the Sunshine State — over the next decade.

And the state government is set to have roughly an extra $800m to play with next financial year, with GST payments to Queensland tipped to climb to $15.6bn.

The government last night unveiled another $1bn for road safety upgrades across the country in a bid to save lives, as well as $1bn for local road infrastructure projects.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the money would go to “shovel ready projects” and insisted it would be provided on a “use it or lose it” basis.

In his speech to parliament, as he delivered what will possibly be the government’s last Budget before voters return to the polls, Mr Frydenberg said regional Australians would never be “taken for granted” under a Coalition government.

“Our economic plan capitalises on the opportunities that will exist on the other side of this (COVID-19) crisis,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Building the infrastructure our economy needs for the future with our 10-year, $110 billion investment pipeline.

“And through the Building Better Regions Fund, we will support a further $250 million of regional community infrastructure projects, creating more jobs.”

The Budget locks in $5m in disaster funding for primary producers in Queensland who were impacted by Tropical Cyclone Niran earlier in the year.

The federal government will contribute $40.3m over three years – alongside the Queensland Government – on a pilot program to fund cyclone mitigation works for strata title properties that will benefit electorates in the north.

Alongside a landmark $10bn reinsurance pool for North Queensland, the Budget also lines up picture perfect projects for Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, with $19.3m to support development of a renewable energy microgrid incorporating hydrogen for the Daintree and $240m for the Cairns Western Arterial Road Duplication.

An extra $7.5m will go towards the Rookwood Weir, the Yeppoon Aquatic Centre will get $13m, the Rockhampton Aviation Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Facility will get $25m and $15.6m will be set aside to support gas field trials in the North Bowen and Galilee basins — all benefiting the Rockhampton-based electorate of Capricornia.

There is also $2.5m for the Isis Central Sugar Mill and $500,000 for the Warwick Recycle Water Treatment Upgrade.

“Our industries and regions depend on affordable and reliable energy,” Mr Frydenberg said last night.

“That’s why the Government is unlocking Australia’s vast gas reserves in the North Bowen and Galilee Basins, and investing in hydrogen-ready gas plants.”

Queensland will also take a slice of $10.7m over the next four years to establish a Veteran Wellbeing Centre in the state’s southeast.

As previously announced before the Budget, the Bruce Highway will get an extra $400m in funding, while $400m will also be spent on Inland Freight Route upgrades between Mungindi and Charters Towers.

The Warrego Highway at the Mt Crosby Road Interchange will also get $4m – the only new infrastructure funding aimed at a Labor electorate.

Nicklin Way will receive $7m and the Maryborough-Hervey Bay Road and Pialba-Burrum Heads Road Intersection Upgrade will get $35.3m.

According to the Budget papers, $10m will be directed to the Bribie Island Road upgrade in Caboolture and $5m will be spent on a Beerburrum to Nambour duplication study.

An additional $126.6m will go to the Gold Coast Light Rail (Stage 3) in the electorate of McPherson held by frontbencher Karen Andrews.

Infrastructure Association of Queensland described the budget as “a solid base for short term recovery” but failed to deliver “visionary legacy creating investments”.

“The spend on social infrastructure and support services is important and necessary but that spend does not provide a direct return on investment and comes at the expense of investing in productivity-enhancing infrastructure which supports industry growth and creates jobs. It is business investment which sustains long term economic and jobs growth,” IAQ chief executive Priscilla Radice said.

“There is simply not enough money to go around, we need more private sector investment.”

Before the Budget was handed down Opposition Treasury spokesman and Queenslander Jim Chalmers predicted it would be a document full of “spin, a lot of marketing, a lot of announcement”.

“(The government is) good at announcements but bad at delivery, good at generating headlines, bad at generating jobs,” he said.

“This Budget tonight will be all about getting the Morison Government back into office and not about getting Australians back into secure, well-paid jobs that they can feed their families on.”

Madurka McCormack and Jack McKay

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