AN extra $2.6 billion in Federal grant money will flow to Queensland Treasury’s coffers in 2016-17, however it won’t end the long-running feud over health and education funding.
Budget paper confirmed specific purpose payments to Queensland would hit almost $11.5 billion next financial year, up $1.3 billion, with small increases in Federal commitments towards public hospitals and schools.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt will pocket an additional $1.3 billion in GST payments, with the Sunshine State receiving extra cash because of the downturn in the mining sector.
The cash splash falls short of matching the funding of former health and education agreements which were due to kick start from 2017 but were scrapped by the Abbott Government.
The Palaszczuk Government is aiming to turn the failure to reinstate the funding, estimated at $11 billion over the life of the agreements, into an election issue in coming weeks, claiming it will cause longer patient wait times and increased class sizes.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison told Parliament the Government had struck a deal with the states that set health increases at sustainable levels and linked the funding with improved standards for patients.
“We have already announced we will provide an estimated additional $2.9 billion over three years for public hospital services,” Mr Morrison said.
“The additional funding is linked to reforms that focus on improved patient safety and the quality of services and reducing avoidable hospitalisations.”
While key infrastructure priorities went begging, the Budget confirmed the Federal and State governments had reached joint funding commitments on two key projects.
The Turnbull Government will commit $200 million towards upgrading a much-maligned three kilometre stretch of the Ipswich Motorway between Rocklea and Darra.
The project includes a new bridge to prevent flooding over Oxley Creek and stretches of additional lanes in both eastbound and westbound directions.
The motorway has been the subject of successive fights over funding since former prime minister Kevin Rudd committed to upgrading the entire 19 kilometre route.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also promised funding for the motorway.
The Budget also confirmed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s $95 million promise towards the second stage of Gold Coast light rail, with a $47.5 million down payment in 2016-17.
The bulk of the Queensland-bound road fund continues long-running projects with a further $558 million towards the $6.7 billion upgrade of the Bruce Highway.
The Warrego, D’Aguilar and Peak Downs highways will receive funding while a final payment of $100 million will be made on the Moreton Bay Rail Link.
However, the Turnbull Government is yet to match Labor’s commit towards the merge of the Pacific and Gateway motorways, which regularly grinds Gold Coast-bound traffic to a halt.
However, $594 million is bound for the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail over the next three years with most of the money slated for planning and land acquisitions.
“We know that an inland rail link will help to integrate domestic markets and bring global export markets closer to home,” Mr Morrison said.
“This is particularly important to leverage the benefits of our export trade agreements for Australian agriculture.
“That is why the Turnbull Government will take the next step to realising an integrated inland rail link connecting Brisbane to Melbourne.”
Environment Minister Greg Hunt also announced a $171 million boost towards Federal funding of the Great Barrier Reef.
This includes $70 million extra towards the Reef Trust, which undertakes projects to improve water quality, and $100 million for the National Landcare Program.
“It is these projects which will make the Reef more resilient as we address the challenges of climate change and the current coral bleaching event which has affected reefs around the world,” Mr Hunt said.
“This is part of a projected investment of more than $2 billion from Australian governments to protect the Great Barrier Reef over the next decade.”
Published in the Courier Mail by STEVEN WARDILL; Tuesday 3rd May 2016