The recently announced 2015–16 Queensland Budget included $10.1 billion in infrastructure funding, comprising an $8.6 billion capital works program and $1.5 billion in capital grants.
Almost $4 billion was committed towards improving Queensland’s roads and transport network, including the expansion of the Gateway Motorway, the construction of the proposed Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, duplication works on the Bruce Highway and major Gold Coast road upgrades in preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Rural and regional infrastructure projects throughout the state will also benefit from the $4.8 billion allocated to the Building Our Regions program, which was originally scheduled for 2016–17 but which has now been brought forward to commence this year.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the infrastructure funding program would provide a “welcome boost to economic activity” and provide communities with “critical social and economic infrastructure to deliver jobs now, jobs for the future and prosperity”.
Aaron Johnstone, Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia’s (CCAA’s) state director for Queensland indicated that while the state budget did not hold any bad news for the quarrying and construction materials industries, it did not present many major new developments either.
“There are no major surprises in the Queensland Budget for the state’s construction materials sector,” he said. “It’s a measured budget delivering on [the state government’s] election commitments, and on earlier funding announcements.”
Johnstone noted that the budget had not contained any “nasty surprises with increased taxes or charges”.
“This is important as it’s essential for our industry to have a stable investment environment, and for the state to have the right settings in place to encourage business and consumer confidence,” he explained. “This will lead to greater, more sustained activity in the construction sector.”
New projects needed
Jemina Dunn, state director for the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), echoed Johnstone’s sentiments, describing the Queensland Government’s financial plan as a “good long-term budget”.
However, she said Queensland’s economy was still facing significant challenges due to the winding down of the mining investment boom. “Never before has the case for encouraging diversification of industry in the Queensland economy and delivering on infrastructure investments been stronger,” she said.
“Industry throughout the state and across the country is under pressure from weak demand, and low confidence. The recent fall in the Australian dollar is providing some relief but the business investment outlook remains tepid.
“Unfortunately this budget did not commit to any new major infrastructure projects across the state. These are vitally needed and would also boost activity in the near-term at a time of slow activity.”
Dunn also welcomed Pitt’s announcement of a streamlined assessment process designed to encourage the private sector to submit market-led infrastructure proposals for government consideration.
“[The] announcement that the government would welcome unsolicited bids from industry on infrastructure is a positive step and has the potential to deliver projects with innovative financing arrangements,” she said.
Johnstone said the State Infrastructure Plan – which was proposed to assist the Queensland Government in planning, investing in and delivering key infrastructure projects by identifying the state’s future infrastructure needs and investment opportunities – was now the major focus for the construction materials industries.
Queensland’s State Infrastructure Plan is scheduled for release early next year.