Lacklustre budget fails regions

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto is disappointed in this year’s State budget.

HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has accused the State Labor Government of lacking vision after handing down yesterday’s state budget.

Despite some wins for his electorate, Mr Dametto said Labor had missed a “golden opportunity” to accelerate the region’s future.

“This budget has us heading towards a $130 billion deficit and in my opinion, doesn’t amount to the construction of one nation-building infrastructure project for the North. Sure, there’s funding allocated for studies and approvals for a number of water projects like Big Rocks Weir in Charters Towers but not one cent for construction,” he said.

“The State has failed to identify what is necessary in Hinchinbrook. Fully funding all tidal access for Cardwell’s One Mile Creek, Dungeness at Lucinda and Forrest Beach would have transformed our region’s economic and tourism potential. This would be aided by funding for the development of the Paluma to Wallaman Falls trail and Cardwell Mountain Bike Trails, both of which are undergoing studies.

“In addition, the government has shied away from locking in the financial support necessary to build the $640 million North Queensland Bio-Energy (NQBE) plant at Ingham. This new technology sugar mill would put the ownership of the mill back into the hands of the growers and through co-generation, adding system strength and dispatchable power to the North Queensland electricity grid.

“State revenue is predicted to drop by $12.3 billion this financial year. This is a time to fund infrastructure projects that will enable industry or generate an income for the state. Spending money on projects like Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and stadiums is fine if you’re trying to buy jobs. In regional Queensland, where we are suffering from sharp population decline, we need opportunity for industry diversification and projects that create legacy jobs, long after construction. This is a responsible way to build an economy.”

However, Mr Dametto said he was pleased that funding had been budgeted for a new Sewage Treatment Plant and normalisation works at Port Hinchinbrook.

“This is a step in the right direction in order to fix some of the development’s long running issues which will benefit the Cardwell community as a flown-on,” he said.

“The government also appears to have backed up its election promise for a satellite dialysis unit at Ingham Hospital and other locations after allocating $9.3 million for its Rural and Regional Renal Program.

“But the fight isn’t over yet. The Ingham Hospital desperately needs a CT scanner and emergency department upgrades, and I will continue to push for these facilities to make it into next year’s budget.”

Meanwhile, almost $70 million worth of new road infrastructure projects have been allocated to Hinchinbrook, including $25 million to widen pavement and improve safety along the Bruce Highway between Ingham-Halifax-Bemerside Road and the Cardwell Range. Another $8.9 million will be used to widen pavement along Hervey Range Developmental Road between Rupertswood Drive and Black River Road and $6.9 million to strengthen pavement along North Townsville Road.

On the education front, Hinchinbrook schools shared in more than $4 million worth of general works and upgrades. Part of that included almost $1.7 million for Bluewater State School to replace an existing amenities block and installation of a ramp to their administration building, $700,000 for a security fence at Bohlevale State School and $250,000 for Ingham State School to refurbish and modernise two learning spaces.

“This year’s budget plays it safe and keeps the wheels turning. It plays true to the Labor mantra of spending money on social infrastructure, education, health and roads but misses the mark when it comes to turning things around for the North,” Mr Dametto said.

“Until the State decides to invest in agriculture and mining, Queensland’s bread winners will continue to flounder,” Mr Dametto said.

“In a few short months, planning for the next State budget will commence. During this time, I’ll be front and centre lobbying those who hold the purse strings for Hinchinbrook’s fair share.”

Nick Dametto MP