Sky’s the limit: How we can get the state moving again
BRISBANE'S skyline offers stark proof the economy has stalled, with the number of cranes on major building sites almost halving since their peak four years ago.
While mega project Queen's Wharf pumps along with 10 cranes and the state government-funded Cross River Rail works added to the number, other sites have withered away, with industry bosses pointing to the drop from 104 to 58 cranes as proof Queensland was grinding to a halt even before COVID struck.
With jobless numbers nearing 240,000 or 8.6 per cent statewide and double that in some crippled regions, The Courier-Mail today launches its Kick-Start Queensland campaign to prepare a roadmap of ideas and initiatives to get the state moving.
Industry big hitters will help deliver a list that makes the case for tax cuts, major road and rail upgrades, building programs, housing, entry-level and other work schemes and cuts to red tape to unlock hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
While the lack of cranes highlights our tough situation, there are bright spots if we move now, they say.
RLB Queensland managing director David Stewart, whose global quantity surveying firm authors the crane index as well as crunching the numbers on mega-projects such as Cross River Rail, Queen's Wharf and Inland Rail, said the trend appeared to be businesses cutting their prices to keep their teams and workers together, ready for better times.
He said the belt tightening meant taxpayer s hould get very good value on public projects.
The Star Entertainment Group boss Matt Bekier says his company is committed to the $3.6bn it is pouring into the Queen's Wharf mega-project as well as The Star Gold Coast, but small operators needed support.
Queen's Wharf will open in 2022-23 to be the world's newest and brightest integrated resort when international travel resumes, and The Star is continuing to market itself and Queensland to the world during the pandemic.
But he warned the tourism "ecosystem" cannot be allowed to wither in the meantime.
The sector could not afford to lose the "mum and dad" businesses who help provide the fun and entertainment that lures tourism spending.
"One of the big concerns is that too many people who are part of the ecosystem are leaving the industry," Mr Bekier said.
Master Builders deputy chief executive Paul Bidwell said his members fear the impetus created by the HomeBuilder grant could be lost unless the state government refines the system to let first-home buyers better access to the system.
"The current process means would-be new home buyers are unable to use the $25,000 grant as part of their deposit; nor can the grant be considered as a factor in determining loan eligibility.
"This impacts on first-home buyers particularly; limiting access to the grant to those who can afford to build without it," Mr Bidwell said.
While the state government says it is working with the banks to find a solution, Mr Bidwell said builders need the system to work as soon as possible.
Property Council head Chris Mountford said Queensland risked losing business to other states because of the nine new or increased taxes since 2016.
"In this current economic crisis, the impact of these tax hikes will be acutely felt in the economy and leave us falling behind other jurisdictions," he said.
"They increase costs on Queensland businesses at a time many are struggling to keep the doors open. Queensland's uncompetitive land tax rates are turning national and international investors away.
"At a time when it has never been more important to attract job-generating investment in private projects, Queensland is fighting with both arms tied behind its back as investors are drawn to jurisdictions like NSW where land tax settings are far more attractive."
A Queensland Government spokesperson said they were working with the banking association to open up the HomeBuilder grant for first-home buyers and were supporting industry and tourism with more than $1bn in Queensland's Economic Recovery Plan, while keeping taxes down.
"Queensland is proudly a low-taxing state. Tax per person is $700 less in Queensland than in Victoria and $1000 less per person in Queensland than in New South Wales," the spokesperson said.
"Queenslanders are more than $100 per person better off under the Palaszczuk Government than they were under the LNP.
"When ratings agency Fitch reaffirmed Queensland's credit rating last week, it noted "the competitiveness of Queensland's tax system, which is an advantage for business, inward investment and interstate migration".
Originally published as Sky's the limit: How we can get the state moving again