Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch MP has expressed his disappointment with the Labor Government’s 2023-24 Budget, highlighting a lack of support for key infrastructure projects and increased costs that will impact residents and businesses in Leichhardt.
Mr Entsch expressed concerns from the added pressures from Tuesday night’s budget that will only worsen the cost-of-living crisis.
“Labor’s new farming tax and their truckies tax, is only going to grow these pressures, particularly for regional communities,” Mr Entsch said.
“This is only going to translate to more expensive trips to the supermarket.”
On tourism, Mr Entsch welcomed the Labor Government honouring the $15 million for Tourism Tropical North Queensland that he secured in the previous government but criticised Labor’s increase to the passenger movement charge.
“The passenger movement charge is getting a $10 per head increase, it’s another cost added on top. You could probably live with it, if that money was reinvested back in tourism, but it’s not going to be,” he said.
He also called for boosting funding for international travel through the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG), which is now seeing tapered investment under Labor.
“At a time where we need to maximise our focus on attracting international visitors, Labor haven’t expanded the scheme to enable larger operators to take the lead in securing visitors from the array of new markets,” he said.
The Budget’s 20 per cent increase on working holiday visas and tourist visas is another point of concern for Mr Entsch.
“This government has cut infrastructure, has no plan to manage migration, but has also added to the cost of holiday visas,” he said.
Mr Entsch was very disappointed to learn of a real pointed hit to Cairns, with Labor’s decision to cut the Young Entrepreneurs Project.
“Tara Diversi has worked incredibly hard in Cairns and made some great strides locally with promoting and growing small businesses. Labor have just scrapped what was supposed to be a further two-year contract, with just two months’ notice, there are other Entrepreneurship Facilitators around Australia who are also facing the same fate,” he said.
Regarding infrastructure projects, Mr Entsch expressed disappointment over the lack of allocated funds for the marine precinct.
“They didn’t allocate the $24 million needed to finish the marine precinct, it’s the last tranche in order to get it to completion, and they haven’t stepped up to do it,” he said.
“We’ve seen the Queensland Government in recent days commit to half of that money, but they need to convince the Federal Treasurer to commit to the other half,” Mr Entsch said.
The absence of funding for an alternative route to the Tablelands also drew Mr Entsch’s attention. “There is no money to identify an alternative for the current route, which means it’s another year of kicking the can down the road—it’s clearly obvious the Kuranda Range will never meet the needs of heavy transport,” he said.
The 60-day dispensing for pharmacies is also a counterintuitive measure that Labor is proceeding with despite the obvious negative implications for regional communities and contrary advice from community pharmacies.
“I’m seriously concerned that this is going to impact on the viability of pharmacies particularly in our regional communities,” Mr Entsch said.
On the topic of bulk billing, Mr Entsch noted that the government had over-exaggerated the benefits. “From my discussions with GPs here in Cairns, there are going to be very few clinics that are going to benefit from this because in reality it is going to be only for those with 100 per cent bulk billing, and worse it is only applicable for those with healthcare cards or those that are under 16—if you’re an average income earner you’re still going to foot the bill.”