Massive blow facing our regional communities
CRIME will rise with understaffed police beats, schools will not have enough teachers and there will be a doctor shortage in regional Queensland if plans proceed to axe remote-area tax concessions.
Emergency service workers could end up paying $500 a week extra in rent if it goes ahead, making it more difficult to attract and retain the vital services, stakeholders have estimated.
Regional Queenslanders have risen up and lashed out at a Productivity Commission recommendation to scrap multiple remote area tax concessions, blasting it as "removal by manifest neglect" and "blatantly ignoring the overwhelming views" of regional Australians.
Police, farmers, councils, schools and the Royal Flying Doctors are all speaking out against the proposal, which would end the concessions some of which have been in place since 1945.
The zonal tax offset allows regional residents, including in Cairns, Townsville and Mackay as well as in the state's west, to claim an average tax offsets of $319 a year.
Fringe benefits tax concessions allow employers to offer incentives in-lieu of pay, like providing significantly discounted accommodation., while paying no or reduced tax on it.
The Productivity Commission found scrapping the zonal tax and removing or halving the FBT concession would save the budget $365 million a year.
But Queensland Police Union boss Ian Leavers said regionally posted officers were offered discounted accommodation and warned it would be harder to attract staff without the FBT concession.
He said in a submission to the commission there had already been three failed attempts to get applicants to Doomadgee police station, while last year Aurukun was relying on fly-in fly-out officers.
The union estimated the loss of FBT would mean officers in rural areas would have to pay up to $500 extra in rent per week.
"Any restriction or reduction in the FBT remote area concession is likely to impede Queensland Police's ability to provide adequate policing in remote and regional Queensland," Mr Leaves said.
Royal Flying Doctor Service state chief financial officer Greg O'Toole said the organisation used the FBT concession to attract staff to their Mount Isa and Charleville bases, while Queensland Catholic Education warned it would have "significant impact on the ability of Catholic schools employers to attract and retain teachers".
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the tax concessions had not been upgraded in 25 years and the recommendation to end them was "removal by manifest neglect".
North West Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils spokesman Jack Bawden said if the commission did not change its recommendation it would "blatantly ignore the overwhelming views of stakeholders".
LNP senator Gerard Richardson said he wanted to regional tax concessions to stay.
"There needs to be an incentive to attract people to the regions to ensure the delivery of essential services such as schools, hospitals and policing," he said.