Golden opportunity lost as labor squanders Regional Riches
North and regional Queenslanders have been left feeling neglected as the State Government opts to have its cake and eat it too, allocating rich coal royalties to what is more a “climate change Budget” than one designed to improve the lives and futures of all Queenslanders.
While the State Budget boasted grand promises and ‘record funding commitments’, the reality is that save for free kindergarten and “sugar-hit style” electricity rebates, North Queensland residents were forgotten in the distribution of crucial funds and investments.
Prior to budget week, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MPs were calling for budget measures that would have meaningfully combatted the rising costs of living.
Three of the most prominent concerns across the north related to health, housing and youth crime.
Despite record budgets being announced for health and youth justice, those funds will not be directed towards projects that will bring any significant relief or change to the regions.
KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said the 2023-24 State Budget was a coal-funded spending spree that suited Labor’s political agendas: staging the Brisbane Olympics and forcing Queenslanders onto renewables.
“The biggest individual spending item in the budget is to build a big hydro battery, which is notably not a generator – the Government has again proven that it is caught-up in the hysteria around renewables and that it doesn’t matter what this costs,” he said.
“In our case, the failure to manage our power networks and continue to invest in coal-fired power generators has driven power prices up for Queenslanders in the regions to the highest levels in Australia.”
“The hypocrisy is we are being forced to pay for this through our rising power bills and then the Treasurer offers to pay us back from our own taxes – $550 for each home to soften the blow.
“This situation will deepen in following years however there won’t be the $15 billion in royalties to carry us through from now on.
“On top of this we have committed to an estimated $20 billion for the Olympics, and the public has still seen no business case for this.”
Hill MP, Shane Knuth said it was welcome news that coal was driving the state and providing the funding needed to build schools, roads and infrastructure, however the regions are still falling short in delivery of that surplus.
“It’s about time the Government guaranteed the future of the coal industry instead of agreeing to a 70% renewable energy target by 2032 and 80% by 2035 under the Queensland Energy and Job Plan,” Mr Knuth said.
“Queenslanders are struggling under soaring electricity prices now, we can only imagine how unaffordable they will be by 2035.”
Hinchinbrook MP and KAP Deputy Leader, Nick Dametto said that the state budget was disappointing but not unexpected.
“In this year’s budget, money has been committed to large infrastructure projects such as Copperstring that will see jobs created in the regions but what’s missing are those smaller tickets items that would deliver the social infrastructure needed to make our regions more liveable,” he said.
“KAP supported Copperstring right from the start and well before the Government hopped on board, so we are pleased to see it was funded, but being realistic, we know that although North Queensland will get an indirect benefit, it is really designed to appease Brisbane and is simply a convenient vehicle to boost their renewable projects.
“Regional jobs will increase and so will the demand for housing but again there is nothing in the budget to help ease housing pressure for the working and middle class income earners.
“The budget surplus this year can be credited to the massive coal royalties. That is despite the Palaszczuk Government having turned their backs on coal fired electricity generation, all the while wilfully shipping it off overseas and reaping the rewards while the rest of the state struggles with extraordinary price hikes.
“The stark reality is the cost of renewables is driving up the cost of electricity, and the State Labor Government set us on this trajectory.
“In terms of health, four cents per kilometre was added to the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme as well as ten dollars per night for overnight accommodation. The patient Travel Subsidy Scheme hasn’t been increased in ten years and it would have been less insulting to regional Queenslanders to not make this pittance of an increase at all.
“When it comes to youth crime, the Government in this state lacks the bravery to do anything different when it comes to dealing with young offenders. By doing nothing different the government may as well raise the white flag and admit they are out of ideas.
“We wanted to see money in the budget for a trial of KAP’s Relocation Sentencing policy which would act as the circuit breaker needed to combat youth crime.”
The KAP said it pledged to continue fighting for rural and regional Queenslanders, particularly on the issues that matter to them most: jobs, health, crime and housing.
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