Tasmania's 2014-15 Budget includes $3.2m to establish Infrastructure Tasmania

IN its 2014-15 Budget released last week, the Tasmanian Government has allocated $3.2 million over four years to establish Infrastructure Tasmania (ITas), which will provide expert advice on infrastructure priorities and improve the overall coordination, planning and delivery of major infrastructure.

Premier Will Hodgman congratulated Treasurer Peter Gutwein on delivering the Liberal Government's first State Budget since gaining power in March this year and described it as a budget that "delivers on our promises, fixes the budget mess and lays the foundations for the future."

"The Liberal Government promised to rebuild the budget, day-by-day, dollar-by-dollar, and that is what we are going to do whilst making sure that we continue to stimulate the economy, create jobs and grow confidence," Treasurer Peter Gutwein said.

In 2014-15, total revenue is estimated to be approximately $4.964 billion and total expenditure is estimated to be $5.249 billion. The government expects to record a net operating deficit of $285.6 million in 2014-15, which is projected to decrease over the forward estimates to $118.0 million by 2017-18.

Economic growth in 2014-15 is forecast to be 1.5 per cent, the same as 2013-14, while the unemployment rate is expected to decrease from 7.7 per cent in 2013-14 to 7.25 per cent in 2014-15.

The Treasurer said the budget delivers in full the government's commitments to rebuild the economy and create jobs.

"Through the First Home Builders Boost, the head works holiday, payroll tax concessions, a small business bonus and other measures in our $28 million Jobs Package we are aiming to reduce Tasmania's unemployment rate to at least the national average and get the economy growing again," Mr Gutwein said

"We will drive investment and development through our plan to cut red and green tape and make the planning system faster, fairer, simpler and cheaper through implementing a single state-wide planning scheme.

"This budget also contains $1.6 billion for infrastructure across the Forward Estimates, an increase of $170 million on what was forecast in last year's budget."

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said the allocation of $3.2 million over four years for Infrastructure Tasmania includes $800,000 for 2014-15.

"ITas will provide expert advice on infrastructure priorities and will improve the overall coordination, planning and delivery of major infrastructure in Tasmania, working closely with Infrastructure Australia," Mr Hidding said.

"It will play a key role in developing a new integrated freight strategy with the Department of State Growth and will also oversee an audit of State roads, delivering on our election promises.

"Recruitment is underway for the first Chief Executive Officer of ITas, who will lead a team with experience in infrastructure strategy, engineering and cost-benefit analysis supported by a small secretariat drawn from the Department of State Growth."

The Property Council of Australia said it welcomed the cautious approach to savings and structural reform in the first Liberal budget Tasmania has seen in 16 years.

"Progressing key initiatives such as the Planning Reform Taskforce, Coordinator-­General, and Infrastructure Tasmania promise to result in improved conditions for business in coming years," said Property Council State President, Tim Johnstone.

"Reducing red tape through a single, state-wide planning system will set the scene for a reinvigorated property and construction industry in Tasmania.

"It's easy to commit to these things in the run up to an election, but seeing the money allocated to get them moving is very promising," Mr Johnstone said.

Mr Johnstone expressed disappointment at the First Home Builders Boost being reduced to $10,000 from 1 July 2015, saying that the change will make Tasmania's scheme less competitive than similar schemes interstate. He also highlighted concerns about the weight of tax on the property sector, with property investors contributing 33 percent of state tax revenue.

"In addition, we need to see movement on local government reform. The state's 29 councils continue to raise rates without improving efficiency. This deserves a place on the Government's agenda," Mr Johnstone concluded.

Full details of the Tasmanian Budget 2014-15 are available from the Department of Treasury and Finance website at <http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/>.

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