March included two parliamentary sitting weeks for our State pollies, including this week when legislation to permanently establish the Queensland Small Business Commissioner was passed, improving support and advice for Queensland’s 452,000 small businesses. Other legislation considered included a further extension to the essential public health measures put in place to support Queensland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic until the 31 October 2022.
Away from the Parliament, flood recovery efforts and the signing of the Southeast Queensland City Deal dominated the headlines.
With the February flooding event impacting homes and businesses across twenty-two local government areas and eight Queensland cities, Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment Cameron Dick advised between $2-2.5 billion would be provided through recovery programs and support measures to help these businesses, councils and residents get back on their feet.
In addition to the emotional toll caused by the flood, Treasury estimates $1billion of economic activity was lost and private insurance claims are expected to be more than $936 million.
On the brighter side, the signing of the $1.8 billion South-East Queensland City Deal on 21 March secures critical funding for key infrastructure needed to transition SEQ into an Olympic city (or an Olympic region, as the case may be!).
The three-way funding agreement between the federal, state and local governments includes funding commitments for thirty SEQ projects, starting with a new $450 million Gabba Metro Station, connecting the Brisbane Metro, with Cross River Rail. Other inclusions of interest are:
- $105 million for Resource Recovery Infrastructure to move the region towards a circular economy
- $70 million for digital connectivity projects to improve digital connectivity;
- a new ferry terminal for Stradbroke Island;
- $10 million towards the Ipswich to Springfield Central Public Transport Corridor Options Analysis and Detailed Business Case; and
- the construction of the Kangaroo Point Pedestrian Bridge.
Anyway you look at it, the SEQ City Deal means good things for Queensland and a clear infrastructure pipeline for the decade ahead.
Finally, after being dogged by integrity questions for most of February, the Palaszczuk Government scored a reprieve in early March when the QC appointed to investigate controversial claims made by former Queensland chief archivist, Mike Summerell, rejected all of his assertions.
Mr Summerell had claimed he was pressured to remove negative remarks and create misleading annual reports to avoid embarrassing the Government. However, QC John McKenna’s independent report on his investigation into the claims found there was no documentary evidence to support Mr Summerell’s claims or that any of the suggested annual report changes were improper.
This could have been an opportunity for the Palaszczuk Government to finally start navigating its way out of its “integrity crisis”, which frankly seems to be more smoke than fire. However, as soon as one spot fire appeared to go out, more seemed to appear– much to the delight of Opposition Leader David Crisafulli, who continued to use the Parliament to pressure the government over its performance in this area. Sadly for all of us, the saga is far from over. Expect new fodder when Peter Coaldrake delivers his interim report on his integrity review into Queensland’s public service in about two months.