Water, rail, roads and tax cuts for small businesses seem to be among the big winners of thefederal government’s budget for New England voters.
Treasurer Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull outside Parliament selling the budget. Photo: Andrew Meares.
Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down a “practical, targeted and responsible budget” which local Member for New England and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said would boost connectivity, build critical infrastructure, support innovation and foster local leadership to support communities in the New England.
“Building on the Coalition government’s achievements over the last three years, the 2016-17 budget will support stronger, more liveable regional communities with better infrastructure, including transport links and digital networks, more support for our rural health workforce and better access to health care,” Mr Joyce said.
Small businesses have been given a lifeline, with the government boosting opportunities to grow, innovate and employ more staff.
From July 1, the small business company tax rate will reduce to 27.5 per cent, but the turnover threshold also increases largely from $2 million to $10 million.
The threshold extends each year up to $100 million by 2019-20, meaning more businesses will benefit from the reduced company tax rate and more importantly, a companywon’t be penalised for their ongoing success.
Gunnedah and District Chamber of Commerce president Jamie Chaffey said while there were positives and negatives in the budget, any tax relief would be welcomed by its members
“Anything, as small as it may be to reduce the cost of doing business for small business is appreciated,” Mr Chaffey said.
Another welcome funding boost has been a $594 million commitment to the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project to continue pre-construction activities and land acquisition for the rail corridor.
The project will make it faster, cheaper and more efficient for Australian producers, farmers and manufacturers, including from the Gunnedah region, to send goods around the country and the world.
While the funding does not commit the government to construction, it is still a win for regional areas.
“NSW Farmers has been calling for investment in inland rail. We know that full delivery of this project will provide more efficient access to ports,” NSW Farmers Association president Derek Schoen said.
A number of measures for agriculture were also announced, including $2 billion in concessional loans to establish the National Water Infrastructure Loan facility which aims to accelerate major water infrastructure construction, including dams and pipelines.
Loan recipients will make interest-only payments for up to the first five years, and have a further 10 years to repay the principal and any additional interest.
There has also been a $7.1 million injection of funds for additional Rural Financial Counsellors to provide free advice to drought-affected families, while $15 million over four years will be spent on a carp control program in the Murray Darling Basin.
The one big disappointment for the agricultural sector, however, is the government’s failure to scrap the controversial backpacker tax following heavy lobbying.
Cotton Australia said it is “disappointed” at the move, where backpackers will be taxed as non-residents from July 1, removing access to the tax-free threshold and requiring working holiday visa holders pay 32.5 cents for every dollar earned.
The Namoi Valley’s cotton and grain industries employ many backpackers and rely on seasonal workers at certain times of the year.
Mr Chaffey said it was a real problem for local employers around Gunnedah and disappointing for the agricultural industry.
“I think some of our businesses that are chamber members are really going to be impacted by backpackers in season as they are going to be a lot harder to attract,” he said.
“It’s a real burden. They are already struggling to get people.”
GrainGrowers has also taken aim at the government.
“We are hearing from many grain growing businesses that are already experiencing a fall in interest from workers who will be much needed for the harvest of this year’s winter crop,” GrainGrowers chief executive officer Alicia Garden said.
The New England electorate will receive $2.8 million to tackle road black spots, while local councilswill share in more than $16.9 million for essential road repairs and upgrades.
Another $73 million over four years will also be spent for the network of 55 Regional Development Australia Committees (RDAs) aimed at fostering and strengthening local leadership across regional communities.
Nationally, the government will invest $74.1 billion in health; $22.7 billion in Medicare; $17.9 billion for hospitals; $10.4 billion on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; $1.5 billion for additional primary care investment, including mental health and $17.8 billion in aged care.
The budget also includes plans to roll out a new $840 million youth employment package to help young job seekers enter the workforce by allowing them to gain skills and real work experience, while $184 million has been set aside for the Nanny Pilot program which supports families who can’t access child care services when working, studying or training by providing fee assistance to eligible families with a nanny.
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