Editorial: Little joy for the west in the budget

Jackie Trad released her first budget as Treasurer on Tuesday and premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called a “budget for all Queenslanders”.

Ms Palaszczuk may genuinely believe that but I can’t help think that when the Premier is thinking of all Queensland she probably has in mind the strip of cities along the coast from Cairns to Coolangatta where most of the key votes are that keep her party in power.

Certainly those cities have done well out of the budget and the Bruce Highway that links them all has got significant funding as the budget has a surprise surplus thanks to better than expected royalties from coal and gas.

The “future proofing the Bruce” initiative gets a quarter of a billion dollars over three years and there is plenty of money for south-east roads including the Pacific Motorway to the Gold Coast.

The news is not so good for those of us living west of the Great Divide and the Flinders Highway has to make do with an ongoing culverts program while the road continues to clog up with big trucks driving the Queensland economy between Mount Isa and the Port of Townsville.

The long criminal neglect of the of the Mount Isa-Townsville rail line continues with no money allocated until the 2020-2021 period.

Ms Trad said she is prepared to add to the state’s debt to finance big infrastructure projects – a sentiment I support as long as those pieces of infrastructure add to our long-term prosperity – but sadly all those projects are mostly in south-east Queensland.

It’s understandable that the government should reward those that voted them into office but with their power base clustered around Brisbane suburbs the effect will be further centralise power and wealth in the corner of the state that already has both in abundance.

Unemployment in the Queensland Outback region is at chronic levels and it seems only a handful of scraps is being thrown at the problem.

There is little sense of urgency that our part of the world is facing an existential crisis and the government’s claim it is “delivering for Outback Queensland” seems hollow. – Derek Barry