Queensland Treasurer Jackie Trad’s first state budget since she was shuffled into the role at the end of last year has revealed the state government is rolling around in greener pastures.
She confirmed on Tuesday an expected surplus of $1.5 billion for the current financial year – triple the size of the mid-year fiscal and economic review forecast – with a further surplus of $148 million for 2018-19.
Ms Trad also announced the state’s flagship Advance Queensland strategy will receive a $50 million boost over five years. The amount is in addition to the $73 million election promise already announced.
The new money is expected to go towards backing more entrepreneurs, funding industry research, fellowships, and helping small to medium businesses.
“Advance Queensland keeps turning good ideas into commercial reality. We are backing business and industry to help give them an edge in a highly competitive world,” Ms Trad said.
Under the now $650 million Advance Queensland initiative, increased funding will mean that the government will invest $30 million into the Ignite Ideas Fund to help startups and SMEs, and another $26 million into the Industry Research Fellowships, which support collaboration between industry and researchers.
The funding includes a $7 million upgrade of Brisbane-based startup hub ‘The Precinct’, the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, and a range of other programs designed to develop key technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, drones, and robotics, including the creation of an Artificial Intelligence Hub based in The Precinct.
The 2018-19 Budget also provides increased funding of $40 million over two years to the Industry Attraction Fund, bringing total funding to $105 million. This fund will help continue to attract interstate and international businesses considering moving to Queensland, or help locally-based businesses expand. And a further $20 million for the Jobs and Regional Growth Fund brings total funding for the program to $150 million over three years.
“As well as supporting our home-grown businesses in the path to success we want to attract new businesses and knowledge industries from interstate and overseas. I want these businesses, their ideas and above all their jobs to call Queensland home,” Ms Trad said.
In terms of specific support for small to medium enterprises, the Business Development Fund will now be handed $40 million over two years in increased funding to support the growth of angel and venture capital funding available to Queensland businesses.
Meanwhile, the state’s ecoBiz Program for Small to Medium Enterprises will receive an additional funding of $3.9 million over four years to continue delivering the ecoBiz program that helps small to medium sized businesses identify and achieve financial savings and eco-efficiency across energy, water and waste.
The government said it also recognises that a “key element of being a responsive government is ensuring the services it provides are easy to use in the most effective and efficient way possible, and that it meets the standards of service demanded by Queenslanders.”
To this, the 2018-19 budget has allocated $8.8 million in 2018-19 of additional funding to continue digital technology and service delivery measures to improve customer service.