The 2018 Federal Budget announced last month was another big win for the Sunshine Coast. We got some very large new commitments of funds for much needed local infrastructure, as well as important tax relief for low and middle income families, a long sought after change to the pension system, and a lot more money for small community grants locally.
Since last year’s Budget we have seen the proven benefits of the Turnbull Government’s strong economic policies, with more than 1,000 new jobs created in Australia every day and more patients than ever on the Sunshine Coast seeing their doctor without paying. The 2018 Budget builds on that strong economic foundation, helping to create more jobs and guarantee the essential services that we rely on on the Coast. It will do all of this while ensuring that the Government lives within its means, returning the Budget to surplus in 2020—that’s a year earlier than we expected in 2017. Due to the Turnbull Government’s responsible budget management, we are no longer borrowing money to pay for everyday expenses for the first time in a decade. With unprecedented jobs growth we have also reduced welfare dependency among working age Australians to the lowest level in 25 years.
Locally my number one priority is delivering the Bruce Highway upgrades that we need. This year’s budget allocated an extra $880 million toward upgrades to the Highway between Caloundra and Pine Rivers and $150 million for the Murrumba Downs section. This is in addition to the $650 million allocated to that section last year. This should allow us to ensure that the road has three lanes all the way from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane. However, in order to get work underway we need the results of the planning study into this section which the Queensland Government has been working on for two years. I have written to Labor Minister Mark Bailey and his department 10 times calling for this study to be published, and he assured me that it would be available by the end of 2017. We still do not have it, and I will be continuing to put public pressure on Minister Bailey to get on with it.
The Budget also contained $800 million for the Cooroy to Curra Section D bypass just north of Fisher. Overall, in less than 2 years we have invested more than $3.2 billion in the Bruce Highway in this region. That’s going to get local commuters home to their families sooner and safer and ensure that tourists’ abiding memory of our region is of our scenery, not of a congestion nightmare.
However, I have always said that we need more than just Bruce Highway upgrades to solve our transport woes. This year’s Budget delivers there too, with a commitment of $390 million to duplicate the North Coast railway line between Beerburrum and Landsborough and to make further upgrades north to Nambour. As a Federal and State team, all of your elected Members have been working very hard to deliver this project. When eventually matched by State funding, this will allow us to deliver more reliable and frequent rail services and get more heavy trucks off the Bruce. Once again, we need to put pressure on the Labor State Government to provide half of the funding so that we can get this project under way as soon as possible. Unfortunately so far they have only committed to 20% of the funding despite the fact that the north coast rail is a State responsibility and should be funded 100% by the State Government.
Completing our local transport announcements, the Budget also invests $293M to improve Australian airport security, including installing body scanners at Sunshine Coast Airport to make travellers safer.
This Budget delivers for 60,697 Sunshine Coast residents with lower taxes that are going to let them keep up to $530 more of their pay every year. That’s more than $1000 a year back in the pockets of thousands of working families in Fisher from July. Over time, this Budget will ensure that 94% of Sunshine Coast taxpayers never have to pay more than 32c in the dollar in marginal tax, and that it will always pay to work that extra hour or get a second job.
For our 30,000 older Sunshine Coast residents, this Budget will let them earn up to $300 a fortnight from part time work or owning a business without affecting their pension. My Fisher Seniors Council, and many other older residents, have asked me for this important reform, to give them more choice and a more comfortable retirement, and this Budget has delivered for them. The Budget also funds 14,000 new home care packages as well as 13,500 new residential aged care places, and invests $20M to help protect older Australians from elder abuse.
In terms of smaller projects, the Government has allocated $150,000 to our electorate of Fisher for next financial year to make small scale grants for community groups under the Stronger Communities Programme. Grants between $2,500 and $20,000 will be available for community groups to upgrade their facilities or buy new equipment. In the last two rounds of this Programme in Fisher we have won grants for many projects including new bathroom facilities for C&K Kindy in Mooloolaba, new lathes and an extension for Caloundra Woodworking Club, a Netball court sun cover for Maleny Rotary Club, and an Archive room for Peachester Historical Society, so it is a great opportunity. The Budget also provides $200 million for larger community infrastructure projects or activities like events in regional areas like ours which create social or economic benefits for local residents. Once again, last year we received a $3 million grant from this Building Better Regions Fund for upgrades to the Events Centre at Caloundra. If you know of any projects that would benefit from one of these grants, or from the new round of the Safer Communities Fund for community safety infrastructure, then please let me know and I will inform you when funding rounds open.
I was also pleased personally to see that our hard working Chaplains will continue to be supported with a further $247 million for the National School Chaplaincy Program. I have joined colleagues in the House in advocating for this outcome and am particularly pleased to see Chappies receive additional training and resources from the eSafety Commissioner to help combat the growing blight of cyber bulling in our schools.
The 2018 Federal Budget will continue to build a stronger economy for our community by providing tax relief for hard working Sunshine Coast residents, encouraging businesses to grow and employ more people and investing in the infrastructure that we need.