Bowen Chamber of Commerce president Bruce Hedditch said “there’s not a lot in the budget for Bowen”. Picture: File
Bowen Chamber of Commerce president Bruce Hedditch said “there’s not a lot in the budget for Bowen”. Picture: File

BUDGET UNPACKED: ‘Putting the cart before the horse’

THE Federal budget has fallen short for Bowen with a focus on job creation but no incentives and a lack of concrete funding for major water projects.

Bowen Chamber of Commerce chairman Bruce Hedditch said "there's not a lot in the budget for Bowen" and was disappointed in funding allocated for jobs, TAFE and water infrastructure.

The budget included a $1.2 billion investment aimed at encouraging businesses to take on trainees and apprentices with the government offering to subsidise 50 per cent of their wages.

Small businesses affected by the pandemic also will be able to claim some tax relief as well as instant asset write-offs.

Mr Hedditch said while it was important to support small businesses, the Bowen region needed funding for development that would incentivise work in the region.

"I'm concerned (the Federal Government is) putting a lot of emphasis on job creation and supporting small business, or any small business that is employing people, but the jobs aren't there," he said.

"I just worry that they're really putting the cart before the horse.

Chamber of Commerce president Bruce Hedditch said the budget needed more incentives for business and development Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Chamber of Commerce president Bruce Hedditch said the budget needed more incentives for business and development Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

"They've got to create an environment where businesses want to employ people, and tax reductions will assist, but there's a lot of other taxes that need to be addressed."

Mr Hedditch said this included reductions in payroll tax and council charges that would only be possible with collaboration from all levels of government.

"They've all got to come together as one united group and provide incentives for people to do things whether it's development or whether it's shops opening up.

"The Federal Government can't do it on their own, they need the State Government and they need the local government."

Mr Hedditch also hoped the budget would have included more concrete funding for water infrastructure.

"I cannot for the life of me understand why they didn't just nominate a sum of money and say we're going to build the Urannah Dam or we're going to Build the Hell's Gate Dam," he said.

"This is procrastination saying there's money there and we've got to get through further inquiries.

"It's just holding the nation back."

Urannah Creek, site of the proposed Urannah Dam, west of Mackay. Picture: File
Urannah Creek, site of the proposed Urannah Dam, west of Mackay. Picture: File

Dawson MP George Christensen said the region may benefit from $2 billion in water infrastructure funding, which could go towards the Urannah Dam project.

However, Mr Hedditch said the government could no longer "dilly dally" on key water infrastructure projects.

About $50 million over the next two years has been committed to TAFE education, while the skills training fund targeted at hiring apprentices and trainees will receive $274.6 million during the same period.

Mr Hedditch said he was "terribly disappointed" the budget did not include targeted funding for TAFE facilities across rural and regional Queensland, especially Bowen.

The Bowen TAFE had more than 33 staff and teachers when it opened more than 30 years ago.

Today, it has limited teaching resources and courses, which Mr Hedditch said disadvantaged both young people and the future of industry in Bowen.

He said the system in place where the Federal Government distributed money to the State Government which was then channelled into TAFE facilities across Queensland "just doesn't work".

"Bowen's not getting any money at all," he said.

"If we're going to incentivise private companies and private employers to employ people doing apprenticeships, we've got to get out and offer the apprenticeship courses.

"So many people have to travel to Townsville to do their apprenticeships."

Businesses across the region heavily reliant on international tourism will benefit from a $50 million Regional Tourism Recovery initiative to help them adapt their offerings, experiences and marketing to appeal to domestic visitors in the short-term.

 

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Under an additional round of the Building Better Regions Fund, half of the $200 million for projects will be dedicated to tourism-related infrastructure, which Mr Hedditch said would go a long way in the whole region's recovery.

However, he said ultimately there needed to be more action on water infrastructure projects across all levels of government to secure a more stable future for the region and Australia.

"I support what Mr Morrison's trying to do, but I worry about debt and I don't want to see too much of the money spent on things that won't give us a return for future investment," he said.


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