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Will we miss our golden opportunity?

By Managing Director, Scott Clements

2020 has been a year like no other.

We have seen a change in every facet of life in Australia, from closed international and state borders to lockdowns and restrictions, as well as a genuinely terrible toll on people’s lives and health.

But Australia and in particular Queenslanders are one thing above all else; resilient. We take it on the chin, and we bounce back, from fire to flood, from economic recession to global crises, Queenslanders emerge stronger every time.

To do so in 2021 will be reliant on how we manage the policies that aid our economic recovery. They are the levers that aid investment, attraction and growth, but I fear that yesterday’s state budget means that we are running the risk of missing out on the golden opportunity for 2021 to be a year like no other; in the best possible way.

The Golden Opportunity

There is no doubt Queensland is an attractive destination – arguably, we are the envy of the world right now.

We have a fantastic climate, a great lifestyle, wonderful cities, unique regions and are an affordable place to live and a great place to work or run a business. The COVID-19 pandemic has been managed fantastically by all levels of government and Queensland has been among the best-managed jurisdictions on the planet.

Looking at data, reports in the media and conversations with colleagues in the industry, we are primed for interstate migration boom from New South Wales and Victoria on the back of the pandemic, but also driven by a desire to live and work remotely, where location and climate can be at your choosing and not driven by the needs of visiting an office every day.

Infrastructure in the state, particularly in the South-East, is laying the groundwork for creating one of the nation’s most liveable and accessible regions. We have Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro, Gold Coast Light Rail, Upgrades to the M1 and Bruce Highways, a proposal for SEQ fast rail, proposed heavy rail to the Sunshine Coast and Inland Rail creating a trade corridor spanning eastern Australia.

Brisbane will see Queen’s Wharf, upgrades to QPAC and Southbank, and Brisbane Live! complementing our existing tourism destinations and creating more demand from overseas visitors to come to a safe destination that offers world-class experiences and acts as a gateway to the beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and the state’s stunning north.

We are also aiming for the ultimate global spotlight; the hosting of the 2032 Olympics.

Falling Behind The Southern States

Therefore, in my mind, Queensland is on the verge of a mini-boom in interstate and international migration. But to achieve it, our policymakers must do more, be more creative and bolder when setting the agenda for the years ahead. Yesterday’s State Budget was an opportunity to do that, but arguably was an opportunity missed, with little reforms made in a sector crucial to migration; housing. This leaves us falling behind the southern states.

New South Wales has announced plans to give people the option not to pay stamp duty, replacing it with annual property tax. They have also increased the threshold for stamp duty exemption for first home buyers.

Stamp duty is a tax which is a clear barrier to property transactions and has for years put unnecessary pressure on established sales and new developments.  Arguably this is one of the most significant reforms to property taxation for decades.

In Victoria, a $5.3bn social housing package has been earmarked in their budget. This will lead to the construction of 12,000 new social and affordable dwelling. In addition, they have introduced a 50% land tax discount for the build to rent sector, further incentivising development to meet demand.

In Queensland, we have done nothing to reform housing and development. There has been no reform to stamp duty or land taxes. Ambitious projects to create social housing are lacking, and the build to rent sector is not incentivised to create homes. If that is not enough, we have in place a foreign buyer surcharge that means foreign buyers, whether based overseas or as migrants moving to Queensland, must pay an additional 7% in stamp duty.

Being an attractive place to live, a state that is primed for a boom that will support our post-pandemic recovery is not enough, if we cannot accommodate the people who wish to call Queensland home permanently or just while they work or study in the Sunshine State.

On the back of a comprehensive election win, with the certainty of a 4-year term, with borrowing at an all-time low and an opportunity to be bold and enact meaningful reform; yesterday was not the time to play it safe.

Queensland is ready to boom, and our policymakers must set the conditions to enable it to happen. The growth of the state and our future economic and social prosperity depends on it.