Five things need to know about the 2023 Queensland Budget
It was all smiles on Tuesday when Queensland Treasurer, Cameron Dick, handed down the 2023-24 Queensland Budget.
And no wonder. Dick announced that, thanks to bumper coal royalties, the Budget was forecast to be over $12 billion in surplus - not only making it the largest surplus in Queensland history, but the largest ever produced by any state or territory.
"Our better-than-expected royalties, which have been driven by exceptionally high prices, have created an opportunity to invest in initiatives to benefit each and every Queenslander."
But with cost of living pressures continuing to sting households, a Budget surplus won't be the only point of interest for Queenslanders. Here are five other takeaways worth knowing about.
1. Energy bill rebates
Chief among the Queensland government's cost of living measures outlined in the Budget is $1.48 billion allocated for electricity bill rebates for both households and eligible small businesses.
In his budget speech, Dick noted that the funding will build on the energy support package already announced in the recent federal Budget.
The decision will mean that all Queensland households will automatically receive a $550 rebate on their electricity bills in the next 12 months, while 600,000 vulnerable households will be in line for a $700 rebate. Furthermore, around 200,000 eligible small businesses will receive $650 towards their bills.
2. Free kindergarten
Families with young children are also set to benefit from additional funding for a number of initiatives, including $645 million over four years to provide 15 hours of free kindergarten each week for all 4-year-olds in the state.
The government says that the initiative, which is set to kick in from January next year, will not only help provide greater access to education for Queensland kids, but potential save families thousands of dollars in kindergarten costs each year.
Parents, and kids, will also be able to take advantage of a new SwimStart program which will be available for children under the age of five who are learning to swim. As part of the program the government will provide 30,000 vouchers worth $150 each for eligible children.
3. Housing affordability
With the issue of access to affordable housing in the state going nowhere fast, the Queensland government also used the Budget to announce funding for a number of new and existing initiatives.
First of all, $322 million has been allocated to build an additional 500 new social housing homes in the state on top of the 2,765 already committed to by the government as part of its Quickstarts Queensland initiative. $250 million will also be put towards retaining and upgrading existing social housing.
$118.2 million has also been allocated over the next year as part of a four-year program to sure up housing for frontline workers in regional Queensland and help put downward pressure on supply issues. The program aims to build 400 new homes in addition to maintaining 3,000 existing ones.
The government has been criticised for not doing more on the housing front though, with the Queensland Council of Social Service describing the announcement of 500 additional social housing homes as welcome, but inadequate given the current housing crisis in the state.
4. Healthcare spending
One of the government's largest spending allocations will be towards healthcare, with the state's health Budget set to increase by 9.6% to a record $25.8 billion over the 2023-24 financial year.
Among the various initiatives announced as part of the Budget, $764 million will be put towards reducing ambulance ramping and associated delays in order to improve access to the state's emergency departments.
The government has also committed $224.5 million towards addressing the backlogs at surgeries and clinics that are still being processed after COVID, and a further $301.4 million in new funding will go towards boosting mental health services.
5. Reduced license fees
Finally in a small win for drivers and other identification holders, the government will spend $23.1 million over the next four years to reduce the cost of replacing a number of licences and cards.
From July 1, the cost of replacing a driver's licence, photo identification card or industry authority card in Queensland will be cut to $35.
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