$5,000 windfall for first home buyers

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First home buyers in Queensland will be among the major beneficiaries in tomorrow’s state budget.

A reform of the government imposed land tax will save those buying their first homes more than $5,000, the Seven Network reported tonight.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser will fund the housing package by cutting access to the $7,000 first home owners grant by those buying properties priced at more than $1 million, it reported.

Mr Fraser earlier today promised his first budget would include “welcome tax reform”.

“It’s a budget that I believe will be well-received by many groups of people,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

With the state under pressure from rapid population growth, the government has been criticised for failing to plan for the demands on road, rail and water infrastructure.

The challenge of the 2008-09 budget – expected to include spending of more than $33 billion – is to provide for a state where an extra 1.2 million people will be living by 2026, amid tough economic conditions.

Mr Fraser is under added scrutiny as Queensland’s youngest treasurer since 1915, sworn in at age 30 in September last year.

“I’m looking forward to providing a budget that I believe looks not just at the next five minutes, but much further over the horizon,” Mr Fraser told reporters in Brisbane today.

The budget – expected to show a $272 million surplus – will include a hike in coal royalties and rises in a range of charges, including boat registration.

Commerce Queensland president Beatrice Booth said any tax reform should promote growth, with Queensland no longer the low-tax state for business.

“Payroll tax is the number one tax burden for Queensland business, followed by insurance duty, mortgage duty and motor vehicle registration charges,” Ms Booth said.

She also called on the budget to address infrastructure and skills shortages.

The South East Queensland Infrastructure Plan and Program, revising infrastructure investment in an environment of soaring capital and labour costs, will be released with the budget.

Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Queensland wants the government’s commitments to improving the health system backed with funds.

AMA state president Ross Cartmill said capital works announced for hospitals in regional centres and Brisbane must be delivered, and called for measures to relieve emergency departments.

“Despite the fallacy this is a result of GP-type attendances, the pressure is caused by an inability to admit patients to the main hospital due to a lack of beds,” Dr Cartmill said.

“Queenslanders desperately need these capital projects to be properly funded and must not see vital beds, equipment or services cut due to poor planning.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche labelled the coal royalty rise – expected to reap $579 million next financial year – a “smash and grab raid”, as royalty revenues already were forecast to double to at least $2.5 billion in 2008-09.

“The state’s budget predicament is so dire that a doubling of coal revenues is not enough,” Mr Roche said.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the state had an embarrassment of funds, but couldn’t manage them responsibly.

He described the budget as Premier “Anna Bligh’s math test” – predicting projects she costed as treasurer in the last financial year would blow out.

“How we can be (going) through this extraordinary resources boom, this extraordinary property boom, revenues coming in everywhere with stamp duty, land tax, payroll tax, royalties and yet this government’s borrowing more and more and more,” Mr Springborg said.

The budget will be delivered to state parliament at 2.30pm (AEST) tomorrow.

AAP

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