Jobs the focus of Queensland budget
MORE jobs, higher growth, lower deficits, lower debt and an earlier return to surplus have been detailed in Queensland's budget as the state continues its economic recovery.
Handing down his third budget on Tuesday afternoon, Treasurer Andrew Fraser said the state's building program, the strength of the export sector and a recovery in the commercial sector had buoyed the economy, allowing a halving of the forecast deficit in the next three years.
The budget records a net operating deficit of $1.745 billion for 2010/11 - down from the $3.142 billion predicted for 2010/11 in the mid-year review.
And the budget will be brought to surplus a year earlier than expected, with a "solid surplus" forecast for 2015/16.
Mr Fraser said he believed the government would be "in range" of clawing back its lost AAA credit rating in four or five years.
A strengthening in the private sector, especially in dwelling construction and business investment, will bring in more revenue. Commodity export earnings are also forecast to return to previous levels.
Central to the budget is a $17.1 billion infrastructure program for new roads, ambulance and fire stations and regional projects to protect and create jobs.
It'll also cater for the 100,000 extra people expected to call Queensland home in the next financial year.
The government revealed on Tuesday morning $42.5 million will go towards building Cairns' cultural precinct to boost tourism and jobs in the area and $10 million will be allocated to an overpass to open up access to the Gracemere-Stanwell industrial precinct in Rockhampton.
The unemployment rate, predicted to reach 7.25 per cent in last year's budget, will now peak at 5.75 per cent this financial year, dropping to 5.5 per cent in 2010/11 and 5 per cent by 2012/13.
And Treasury expects economic growth of 3.75 per cent this year and 4.25 per cent the following year.
A new Skills Commission will be created to drive investment in training, particularly in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
"Our determination to elevate the jobs of Queenslanders above all else has delivered where it matters: avoiding the heights of expected unemployment and reducing the impact on Queensland families from the devastation of job losses," Mr Fraser said.
"... Our determination to deliver a net new 100,000 jobs by March 2010 has never wavered."
The state's embattled health system received a 10.5 per cent boost and a record $9.99 billion, which includes $7.33 billion for health infrastructure.
Almost another quarter of the budget will be taken up by education, which received $9.5 billion to fund more kindergartens, teachers and new programs.
Mr Fraser said while the budget was focused on restoring the state's fortunes, it also provided $1.3 billion worth of concessions to those in need.
"Our drive for greater budget discipline has not dampened our efforts to provide relief for Queenslanders where we can," he said.
Changes to compulsory third party insurance will mean a $24 saving for motorists, while electricity rebates for pensioners and seniors will rise from $190 to $216.
A new tax exemption will help those with a disability by excluding homes purchased through a disability trust from stamp duty.
And subsidy programs will help with electricity costs for those using oxygen and home kidney dialysis machines, as well as residents who require air conditioning because of health issues like multiple sclerosis.
"Individually, these measures are modest, but they target assistance to some of our most deserving Queenslanders," Mr Fraser said.
Queensland State Budget 2010-11 Snapshot
* Economic growth to strengthen to 3.75% as the recovery builds
* Lower deficit, lower debt and a return to surplus sooner
* New $18 million exploration program to support resource industry
* Jobs growth to strengthen, unemployment to fall
* $17.1 billion capital works program – supporting 106 000 jobs
* 125% payroll tax rebate for apprentices and trainees extended
* New Skills Commission to tackle skills shortages
* $24 cut to CTP insurance on car registration
* $12.6 million increase for electricity rebates for seniors
* Land tax exemption for supported accommodation providers
Population growth plan
* An additional 720 nurses, 180 doctors and 300 allied health professionals
* 203 new police, 316 new teachers and teacher aides, 75 ambulance officers
* Five new schools and bring forward of 40 new kindergarten services
* 6 new ambulance stations and 3 new fire stations
* $4,000 Regional First Home Owner Boost to support house construction outside SE Qld
* Springfield rail line to be fast-tracked and delivered two years earlier
* Record $1.6 billion building program for new hospitals and redevelopments
* Boost for cochlear hearing implants funding for children
* $31 million boost to medical research
* $194 million for new regional cancer treatment services
* $56 million over five years for national parks
* New waste programs to reduce waste and promote recycling
* $115 million for solar power projects, including $5.8 million for solar power in kindergartens
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