Industry leaders disappointed in Queensland Budget
UNDERWHELMING, falling short and a missed opportunity.
Those were some of the words agricultural leaders used to describe the recently released 2017-18 Queensland Budget.
While Minister for Agriculture Bill Byrne described funding allocations as "significant commitments for rural communities” and as an important enhancement of the support the Palaszczuk Government already provides for the bush, AgForce general president Grant Maudsley said the budget had "no clear vision” to help agriculture grow.
"While there are billions of dollars set aside for road and rail projects in south-east Queensland, there appears to be no major new funding for regional and rural transport initiatives that would make it safer, easier and cheaper to get farm goods to market,” he said.
"It's particularly disappointing there is no funding for an AgForce-backed rail freight infrastructure project in central and southern Queensland that would be a game-changer for grain growers.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Farmers' Federation (QFF) president Stuart Armitage said while there were positives in the budget around investing in regional Queensland jobs and programs, there was a concerning omission and lack of acknowledgement of agriculture's role in supporting jobs and growth throughout the state.
"The State Budget has failed to properly fund and support a vision that rightfully places Queensland agriculture as a major contributor and employer in the state,” he said.
"It is disappointing that the reliable workhorse of rural and regional Queensland appears to be overlooked in the Government's vision for the state.”
Minister Byrne described biosecurity and fighting pests as a top priority, with the Government allocating up to $9million for the white spot response (the disease impacting the seafood industry), $2.77million to Panama (disease impacting banana industry) and $1.25million for drought-affected landholders battling wild dogs.
Mr Armitage commended the Government's investment for biosecurity but said more could be done.
"Queensland agriculture has been calling for a considered and substantial bolstering of the state's biosecurity capabilities to ensure we have a system that appropriately invests in precautionary as well as reactionary measures,” he said.
Canegrowers chief executive officer Dan Galligan said the Queensland Government had missed an opportunity to invest in a positive way in agriculture in its 2017-18 State Budget.
"They've had an operating surplus, it is an election year and there could have been some real initiatives for agriculture which is a powerhouse of the Queensland economy - but I just don't see it,” he said.
"The only thing of interest was the $700million for electricity affordability which we heard about before the budget and even that is less than half of the windfall coming from increased electricity charges.”