Mayor reveals thoughts on budget: Grants freeze will hurt

Mayor Gail Sellers.
Mayor Gail Sellers.

GLADSTONE region Mayor Gail Sellers reveals her thoughts on the Federal Budget.

Her comments:

The 2014 Federal Budget distributes the pain relatively evenly among Australians as the Abbott Government attempts to wrest the budget into surplus by about 2018.

It was pleasing to see Treasurer Joe Hockey's renewed commitment of $48.2 million to the successive stages of the port access road in Gladstone and the remaining half share of $12.5 million to resolve traffic congestion at the Kin Kora roundabout.

Without the finer details yet revealed, and providing it gets Senate backing, there appears to be little relief for residents, other than perhaps an expected saving of $550 per annum per household as a result of the abolition of the carbon tax.

There may be some benefit in the government's commitment of up to $10,000 to businesses to employ workers aged 50 years or over who have been unemployed for at least six months.

Those who find themselves unemployed in our fading economy will be hit hard by the announced six-month waiting period to receive unemployment benefits.

Our apprentices received some good news in the offering of loans of up to $20,000 over four years to help see them through their training while on apprenticeship wages.

Of great disappointment for Gladstone Regional Council and its residents are the announced three-year freeze in financial assistance grants to local governments - estimated to be valued at $1.4 million in Gladstone's case - and the indexation of the fuel excise.

The financial assistance grants go towards building and maintaining community assets such as roads, swimming pools, libraries and community halls, as well as providing services to the young, the elderly and community groups.

The flow-on effect of this decision will ultimately cost residents further by placing pressure on council to balance the budget with the increased costs of doing business.

This is extremely concerning because we've worked hard to put in place measures to ensure this region's financial future is secure.

The indexation of the fuel excise will not only increase transport and building costs and flow on to consumers through groceries and other products, residents who travel considerable distances will also be hard hit by rising fuel costs.

Council is not immune from this announcement.

Each 1% increase to fuel costs equates to $22,000 per year on council via its fleet of machinery, equipment and vehicles.

There is funding for ongoing work to the Bruce Hwy but allocation for future duplications and upgrades are not expected to benefit the Gladstone region in the immediate or near future.

On a positive note, the budget did include the surprise retention of the Roads to Recovery, Black Spot and Bridges Renewal programs, which will offer some relief if we are fortunate enough to secure a slice of this funding.