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5 April, 2022

Bob’s budget briefing

Kennedy MP, Bob Katter, has welcomed significant announcements for North Queensland in the Federal Government’s budget, including a whopping $1.3 billion telecommunications package to expand mobile and internet coverage in the regions, and $99.3 million to increase the number of medical students studying in rural and remote locations.


Telecommunications 

Mr Katter wrote to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the lead-up to the budget calling for increased phone and internet funding for the regions and is pleased that the Treasurer has followed through, with $811.8 million committed over five years to expand mobile coverage and connectivity in regional Australia. 

This builds on the current Mobile Black Spot Program and the Regional Connectivity Program, and $480 million will go to the NBN Co to upgrade its fixed wireless and satellite networks to improve services in regional areas. 

Health 

Funding of $99.3 million has been announced for rural and regional doctor training as well as $33.3 million for the Royal Flying Doctor Service over four years. 

“A delegation of doctors from Mareeba, Gordonvale and Innisfail joined me to meet with Health Minister, Greg Hunt, last year and it’s proved to be quite fruitful,” Mr Katter said. 

“We’ve been losing multiple doctors from all our towns. 

“We have now secured HELP university study debt alleviations to attract doctors to the regions, and $99.3 million for up to 80 commonwealth supported medical students per year to be trained in the regions. It’s an ongoing battle but we will keep raising it.” 

Water 

An extra $8 million has been allocated to Charters Tower’s Big Rocks Weir for construction which brings the total funding commitment from the Federal Government to the project to $38 million. 

Mr Katter says the water project, which he secured with the balance of power in late 2018, will increase irrigation farming, boost town water supply and believes it will lead to the construction of a meatworks. 

“North Queensland had multiple meatworks, but they’ve all closed down except the one in Townsville,” he said. 

“We need secondary industries in our towns like a meatworks. The weir will grow feed and increase cattle fattening in the late part of the year when cattle operators normally have to destock.” 

Cost of living (fuel) 

Mr Katter said the Government’s cost of living measures including the temporary cut to the fuel excise, and its extra 50,000 places Home Guarantee Scheme, were “somewhat short-sighted”. 

“Cutting the fuel excise does nothing to increase Australia’s fuel reserves which they say will last less than a month, I doubt they’d last three days in a rush. And now we’ve drawn on our ‘strategic’ fuel reserves located on the other side of the globe in the USA,” Mr Katter said. 

“We need fuel security and sovereignty. The crossbench MPs are supporting a proposal including a ban on the export of Australia’s oil (so it’s refined here), Australian grown ethanol, waste-to-diesel plants, and Australian made electric cars and buses strictly for public servants and metropolitan areas. 

“Farmers in my electorate are screaming out for cost reductions on two of their biggest input items: freight and fertiliser. The excise is a temporary sugar hit. We can make ethanol for under 80c a litre in Australia, if you allow 17c for transport and retailing, you are still coming in at a dollar.” 

Cost of living (housing) 

Mr Katter said the extra 50,000 places under the Home Guarantee Scheme would only drive up the demand for housing without increasing the supply, resulting in an increase to property prices. 

“The Federal Government need to work with State and Local Governments to cut the restrictions around subdivisions,” he said. 

“If they build superfast highways and people live on acreage blocks it will mean a comfortable living. Currently, you wouldn’t get a two-acre block in North Queensland under $250,000. The real cost of a block of land is $25,000. 

“The State and Local Government restrictions have made subdivisions prohibitively expensive. If they’re two-acre allotments you can dodge out from curbing, channelling, headworks charges, sewage connections, and you can go off grid for your power.” 

Tourism/Backpackers/Worker Shortage 

Mr Katter said $63 million had been announced over three years to accelerate international tourist and backpacker arrivals through targeted marketing. The Government will also boost the number of Working Holiday Makers through a one-off 30 per cent increase across all country caps in 2022- 23. 

“This is excellent. We called for a targeted campaign and the Government has delivered. We need backpackers to work in our pubs, farms and tourism operations,” he said. 

“However, the UK free trade deal means that UK backpackers don’t have to work on farms or regional areas to extend their visas and this should be overturned.” 

Transport and roads 

Mr Katter, has welcomed a substantial amount of funding for roads and highways around the Kennedy electorate, but says the fight for the Bridle Track Tunnel from Cairns to Mareeba (Atherton Tablelands) goes on. 

Nearly $70m in funding will be spent to upgrade the Flinders Highway in different sections between Julia Creek and Hughenden, $6m for the Ootann Road in the Tablelands and Mareeba Shires and $9.6m for the Croydon to Georgetown Road. 

Mr Katter said the crown jewel was the $385m to finish the four-lane, divided highway upgrade between Edmonton and Gordonvale. 

“Adding in this final amount of funding, there will have been $2 billion spent on the divided highway between Gordonvale and Cairns,” Mr Katter said. 

“It makes it easier for us to argue for the Bridle Track Tunnel, which will cost under $2 billion. This will open irrigation behind Cairns on the Tablelands and the Mitchell River, and we will open and expand the giant mineral province at Chillagoe. These can’t be opened up if we can’t get freight out through a port. 

“Currently we are locked in with a fatally dangerous road at Kuranda, that cannot take freight or heavy trucks, and is closed to traffic weekly, for hours at a time. It would be nice if the State Labor MPs and Member for Leichhardt could go into bat for an alternative.”

Other Key Funding announcements relevant to the Kennedy Electorate 

  • $20 million for pest and weeds 
  • $15.4 million to support Agricultural Shows societies 
  • $12.4 million in 2022-23 to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to extend fee relief to local tourism businesses impacted by the Covid pandemic, and 
  • $10 million over two years for the Journalist (Cadetship and Training) Fund to support broadcasters and publishers to hire cadets and journalists to support public interest news in the regions.


What’s in it for you 

FUEL EXCISE CUT 

The government reduced the fuel excise by 50 per cent for six months, meaning excise on petrol and diesel is cut from 44.2c a litre to 22.1c/L 

ONE-OFF PAYMENT 

The Government is providing a one‑off, income tax-exempt payment of $250 to all eligible pensioners, welfare recipients, veterans and eligible concession card holders in April 2022. 

TAX OFFSET 

From 1 July, over 10 million individuals will receive a one‑off $420 cost of living tax offset. Combined with the low and middle income tax offset, eligible low- and middle-income earners will receive up to $1,500 for a single income household.

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