Treasurer pledges ‘role defining’ effort to light a flame under private sector

Treasurer and Investment Minister Cameron Dick has overhauled the bureaucracy to give the private sector confidence to spend money in Queensland.

Mar 03, 2021, updated Mar 03, 2021
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick.

Ahead of a round of talks with business and industry leaders, Dick said Queensland’s strong response to COVID-19 had demonstrated the benefits of stable government, and the state remained an attractive lifestyle destination.

Brisbane has also been named the preferred host for the 2032 Olympics, presenting both opportunities and challenges, with the government having to deliver world-class infrastructure without being left with an exorbitant bill. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has emphasised the need for money to be spent wisely to benefit future generations.

If the private sector is to play a role, Dick said it was important for government to identify any impediments to investing or doing business in Queensland.

“We’ve got to transition from public expenditure, where governments have had to do the heavy lifting, into facilitating private sector investment,” Dick told InQueensland.

“This is central to the long-term pathway to recovery.”

While Labor remains anti-privatisation, the government has sought to get more value out of its assets, and Dick said community and environmental standards would continue to be protected in any private sector deals.

His comments came as Deputy Premier and Planning Steven Miles announced a new Growth Areas Delivery team, within government agency Economic Development Queensland, to help respond to pressures in south-east Queensland. He said building incentives had seen more house-and-land packages sold, reducing the available land for development.

Miles said the rate of population growth would require not only new greenfield sites to be identified, but “a fundamental rethink of our approach to infrastructure planning and delivery”.

“There are particular challenges on the Gold Coast and in the Redlands area but other parts of Brisbane there are issues associated with fragmentation of development lots. One thing industry has said to us is they would like to see government play a more active role in bringing developers together and assisting them to deliver the infrastructure needed for them to deliver their lots together. That’s the kind of thing I want this team working on.”

Meanwhile, the Queensland Productivity Commission is being abolished, in favour of an Office of Productivity and Red Tape Reduction in Dick’s portfolio, and Dick wants to create the environment in which the private sector can invest.

To demonstrate its pro-business approach, the government recently held a Cabinet meeting at the Rheinmetall facility in Ipswich, hoping to attract more defence projects and jobs.

Dick said Queensland wanted to attract the headquarters of major companies, skilled workers, and foster a thriving ecosystem of industry and business.

“We need major projects in Queensland so we’ll be hunting those too,” Dick said.

Dick said he was confident he had the power to enact any necessary change, potentially as early as the June budget. The government has gone deeper into deficit, and debt, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but now has a fixed four-year term in which to change.

“This is not a short-term program, this will be one of the things that define my role as the treasurer and the minister for investment as long as I have the role,” Dick said.

Dick said workplace trends, such as more people dividing their work time between the office and home, had allowed a rethink of how business is done.

His first investment roadshow this morning attracted 16 participants, with more expected to turn out in the coming weeks.

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