Sandy Zubrinich, Chair, Sunshine Coast Business Council
“The reality is that infrastructure in Queensland and on the Sunshine Coast has been significantly underfunded by this government over the past five years and we would hope that a healthy percentage of the $56 billion earmarked for capital works and infrastructure in this State budget is invested into our region,” said Ms Zubrinich.
“State government funding has been lagging in regards to upgrading of roads and rail networks, one just needs to be on the Bruce Highway travelling south on a Sunday to experience the impact of this first hand.
“As a priority, we need a fully funded regional transport strategy for the Sunshine Coast. Projections indicate that we will have a population of over half a million in the next two decades, however regional migration appears to have been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic so it is crucial to have a strategy in place to respond to this growth — one that bring councils’, Federal and State governments vision and planning for the region together.
“This will also lead to the need for more employment opportunities and the diversification of our economy. We applaud the commitment this budget makes to creating 46,000 jobs and that 58 per cent of these will be beyond the Greater Brisbane region. However, even achieving this level of job growth still means Queensland’s unemployment rate will remain higher than the Australian average. So, we need to do more without creating more debt — therefore the growth in jobs will need to come from the private sector rather than the already burgeoning, $26-billion public sector.
“On the Sunshine Coast there is a strong pipeline of major projects and strong intent to continue investing in the diversification of the regional economy. We believe two initiatives — a freight and logistics hub and a proposed smart food manufacturing hub – are key in any diversification strategy. While these will be part-funded by the private sector, we call on the state government to provide funding for a comprehensive business case to support the establishment of these important regional hubs. They will provide a great opportunity for new, sustainable jobs and further leverage the significant investment already made in the Sunshine Coast Airport and the regional food and agribusiness industry.
“We commend the announcement that state government local procurement targets have been increased from 25 to 30 per cent by June 2022 — the call to buy local should be a commitment from all levels of government. However, we believe this should not be limited to small and medium businesses and should extend into government and council procurement contracts particularly in technology, including cyber security and ICT. This would go a long way to strengthening these critical capabilities in regions. Capabilities that are essential to the future of regions.
“What we need in this next term of state government is for the private sector to have the confidence to invest and create jobs, to help get the State on a stronger budget footing and Queensland to lift its economic performance in to the longer term. We are now facing down a debt burden of $130 billion by 2023/24 in this State and accumulated debt for all states of over $500 billion. We need to see that our State government has a plan to address this debt over the long haul and is not just kicking it down the proverbial road.
The Sunshine Coast Business Council is the leading regional business advocacy group on the Sunshine Coast. It represents approximately 4,000 businesses through its membership, which includes key national and regional industry groups and their members as well as national and regional businesses.
For more information please visit www.scbusinesscouncil.com.au.