Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a $4 billion economic stimulus package as the state prepares to close its borders to non-residents from midnight Wednesday.
Queensland reported a further 78 cases of COVID-19 today, the majority in the state’s south-east corner.
Included in the Premier’s stimulus package is $1.2 billion to ramp up the state’s health response to the virus and $300 million to assist Queensland households with the cost of living during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Palaszczuk said the money allocated to Queensland health will allow the state to double its intensive care units and increase the capacity of its intensive care departments.
“It will provide more paramedics as needed for more ambulance services, expansion of fever clinics and better use existing hospitals, providing hundreds of more beds if needed,” she said.
The premier has also earmarked funds to increase community testing services.
“We will expand community screening and contact tracing and 13 health services, to provide more acute health services, and we will continue non-urgent surgery where we can.”
In good news for small and medium-sized businesses, the premier has announced a three-month pause on payroll tax.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the measure would have an immediate impact for SMEs as the government will also release payroll tax payments from the past two months.
“So that’s an immediate cash injection over the course of the next week. For small and medium businesses it is about giving them a payroll tax holiday, no payroll tax for the next three months, and then a deferral for the rest of the year,” she said.
That change is expected to improve cash flow by $9,000 immediately, before adding another $13,600 over the next three months.
Households can expect to receive up to $200 credit to offset the cost of their water and electricity on top of the previously announced $50.
“We know that workers have been hit hard. Workers are facing issues that they’ve never had to face before, I’d never want any Queenslander to face before. We need to make sure that we are giving all the support we need to get workers through the next six months,” the premier said.
Today’s announcements are worth around $2.5 billion, with Trad said the government will unveil a $1.5 billion work and industry support package by the end of the week.
Palaszczuk also made it clear the state will not be accepting any interstate travellers from Wednesday.
“All non-essential travel should be cancelled or postponed immediately. Our messaging is around is clear – don’t come to Queensland unless you have an essential purpose,” she said.
“We accept that there will be a significant impact upon persons who are ordinarily crossing our border daily. We will give messaging around that, so people clearly understand how they’re impacted, particularly those that live in border communities.
“We will provide information to these people who regularly cross the border for work purposes and give them advice to how we can manage that so we can make it as seamless as possible.”
The premier stressed essential services would not be impacted. However, she was firm that now is not the time to pack up the car and head to Queensland and any internal vacation plans should also be abandoned
“There is no school holidays. It is not about packing up the car and going to the beach for a picnic or going for a swim on the beach. It’s not about going camping. This is about staying in your suburb.”
She urged everyone to stay at home for the health and well-being of their fellow Australians.
“I need everyone to listen to advice and stay in your suburb. Queensland has the best weather and it will be hard for people because we have to do it, because we are trying to lessen the curve.”
“We do not have the resources to spend on contact tracing people and checking up where they are staying on a 14-day quarantine…
“Unless you are a returning Queenslander, the border is closed to you.”