MEASURES outlined in last night’s Budget will be the kick-start that the Far North, and Northern Australian, economies need to develop, says Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch.
“I’m very pleased with a whole range of elements in the Budget,” Mr Entsch said today. “It bodes extremely well for us when we’re looking at how to bolster small business, strengthen families, grow industry, build local infrastructure and develop Northern Australia.
“Overall, I was reassured to hear that despite the challenges in getting legislation through the Senate, our timetable back to a Budget surplus is unchanged from last year.
“Although we inherited $123 billion of deficits, we’ve now reined that in to $82 billion over the next four years.”
Mr Entsch said small business has already welcomed the Budget initiatives, including a 1.5 per cent tax cut and support for new businesses start-ups.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic that small businesses can claim an immediate tax deduction on items for their business up to $20,000.
“If you’re a tradie, you can buy new tools, if you work from home, you can get a new computer… anything from vehicles to machinery under $20,000 is immediately tax deductible.”
Mr Entsch confirmed that around Cairns, there is $31m in this year’s Budget to commence works on the Roberts Rd to Foster Rd section of the Bruce Highway, and for pavement widening from Ingham to Cairns.
“There’s also a double payment for councils in Leichhardt under the Roads to Recovery program ? they’re getting $8.8 million to maintain and upgrade local roads.
“I’m also very interested in the Stronger Communities Program, which is putting $300,000 over two years into every electorate to fund small capital projects in local communities.
“I’m always coming across projects that just need a bit of funding to get up, yet would provide a great community benefit, so there’s a lot of opportunity here.”
Mr Entsch said that during the Prime Minister’s visit to Cairns last week, Mr Abbott gave indications that a range of initiatives would be committed to in the White Paper.
“It’s good to see the money for these starting to come through in the Budget, especially as all of them were the result of recommendations we made in the Pivot North report.
“The $5b concessional loan facility is very significant ? from 1 July this year, private enterprise will be able to start applying for loans to develop infrastructure in Northern Australia ? whether ports, rail, water and pipeline infrastructure.
“During the Northern Australia inquiry we had a whole host of organisations with fantastic ideas that required the support of a public-private partnership, so these concessional loans will provide them with the funding stream needed to move forward.
“Locally, there are projects such as Ports North’s Cairns Shipping Development Project and the water infrastructure development project at Nullinga Dam, where there is a strong private interest.”
Mr Entsch also highlighted the $3.7m to develop a new infrastructure projects pipeline, the $101m investment in upgrading the Beef Roads, and confirmed that both the Hann and Gregory Highway upgrades have been committed to.
“There’s not a specific dollar figure in the Budget because we are still working with the Queensland Government on both of those projects – the cost estimate for the Hann varies from $60-130m. But the commitment is certainly there and by the time the White Paper is handed down in June we should have figures attached to that.”
Mr Entsch also reaffirmed the commitments outlined last week during visits by the Prime Minister and Minister Andrew Robb of $2.1m for the Northern Australia Insurance Taskforce and $15.3m over four years for research into tropical disease threats, enabling JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine to take a lead in the field.