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Premier's push for the bush with councils pact, $880m for roads, infrastructure

Decision 2020

Labor today ratcheted up its pitch to the bush and regions, boosting mental health programs in the wake of the pandemic’s harsh “long shadow” under a new Bush Compact, and promising an $880 million stimulus injection for councils across the state.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced the Bush Compact between the government and regions and the cash boost commitment to three programs designed to support 17,800 local jobs, at the annual conference of Local Government Association of Queensland on the Gold Coast.

The funding includes an extra $400 million for the Works for Queensland program that will support up to 11,800 jobs over the next six years.

It means 65 regional councils will each receive two rounds of $1 million, with the remainder of funds allocated based on population and unemployment levels over the next six years.

A further $200 million will be allocated to the SEQ Community Stimulus Package with two rounds of $2 million to each of the 12 southeast Queensland councils, with the remainder up for grabs by application. The program is expected to support up to 6000 jobs.

An allocation of $280 million over four years will be put towards the Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme, which supports infrastructure projects throughout the state through a 50:50 state and local government funding split, to support a further 230 jobs.

The mental health program will include $3.5 million for localised mental health responses that includes grants of up to $75,000 for 45 rural councils to support the mental health needs of local communities.

Local Government Association Queensland President and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said the funding boost was vital as local government were the real “guardians of the community.”

“The economic crisis the pandemic has caused pain and will continue to be fought for a long time,” Jamieson said.

“Communities needed hope and they needed to know council had their backs.”

He said the Bush Compact would force government to focus more firmly on the bush, including the impact of city-centric policies on remote areas.

“We believe the Compact will put an end to the cookie-cutter policy-making that does not work in a state as decentralised as ours,” he said.

Palaszczuk told mayors and councillors they were instrumental in protecting the health of Queenslanders during the coronavirus health crisis.

“The death toll, just for Queensland, was predicted in the tens of thousands,” she told the conference.

“I don’t think people realise how vital local government is when you’re facing something like that.

“We know it because we’ve been through so many natural disasters together.”

She said the state had stood “shoulder to shoulder” with local governments and said Queensland’s COVID report card was even stronger than New Zealand’s – with fewer cases and deaths – even though New Zealand was recognised as a global high achiever.

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