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Ramping up: $400m in road funding at centre of new Qld stimulus package

Politics

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has acknowledged that the health measures needed to save lives have caused economic harm that needs to be treated.

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There were initially forecasts of thousands of Queensland deaths due to COVID-19, however the number has been kept at six, with new infections remaining low and fewer patients in hospitals than expected.

“Even though we have avoided a mass impact on our health system, it comes with a much greater economic toll,” Palaszczuk told parliament today.

“We could not have saved livelihoods and we cannot now get our economy moving if we had not protected ourselves from the virus.”

Declaring it time for Queensland to “unite and recover,” Palaszczuk announced $400 million in accelerated road funding for upgrades, new intersections and widening projects which she said would create or sustain hundreds of jobs.

In response to a proposal from the Local Government Association of Queensland, there will also be $200 million for councils to build, upgrade or refurbish community facilities such as playgrounds, swimming pools and libraries, as well as essential services.

More small business grants will be available under a $100 million fund, while the tourism sector will benefit from $50 million in support, and retooling the manufacturing sector to provide health supplies will require another $50 million.

Backing private sector proposals, Palaszczuk also announced $14.8 million to support the CopperString 2.0 high voltage transmission line in the North West Minerals Province, and called for feedback on the Kalfresh proposal for a $50 million agricultural industrial plant in the Scenic Rim.

While she continues to face criticism over restrictions at the NSW border, that could be in place until September, Palaszczuk cited the NSW government health advice that urges against any non-essential travel.

“There is no advice in NSW to travel domestically … to any other state,” she said.

Queensland remains concerned about infection hotspots in Sydney. However, council-area maps of COVID-19 cases also show far more infected people on the Gold Coast than in areas of northern NSW, suggesting the preventive health benefits might go both ways.

New Treasurer Cameron Dick – who joked about having to rely on papers to cite specific economic figures – today promised a mid-year budget update in September. The scheduled budget was cancelled by former treasurer Jackie Trad weeks before she resigned her post and has already gone into deficit.

While offering a status report rather than a full budget, Dick said he would front a parliamentary committee to further detail the Government’s effort to save jobs and avoid damaging cuts. This would come ahead of the state election on October 31.

“There are some who would advocate cutting, sacking, and selling our way down a path of austerity,” Dick said.

“But our Government will always choose jobs.”

LNP Leader Deb Frecklington said the Palaszczuk Government would be the only administration in the country not to deliver a full budget. She suggested Labor had been distracted by internal issues and integrity crises.

“No budget means you have no plan to build a strong Queensland economy and create more jobs,” Frecklington said.

“Queenslanders deserve to know how their taxes are spent and anything less is another Labor cover-up.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles paid tribute to the health workers on the frontline whose actions had ensured the health response was the first phase of the economic response.

While the number of COVID-19 cases remained unchanged, Miles was still concerned about the “potentially catastrophic” situation in Rockhampton where an aged care nurse worked and was active in the community while contagious.

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