The budget has been handed down — find out what’s been saved and what’s been cut.
The Queensland state budget has been released, with Treasurer and Minister for Trade Tim Nicholls declaring the government has taken action to reduce the $80 billion state debt and $4 billion interest bill.
“Our Draft Plan is the strongest choice because we have always been committed to fixing the state’s finances and ridding Queenslanders of the burden of $450,000 an hour interest repayments, even if there were no easy ways to do so,” Mr Nicholls said. “It is the smartest choice, because to achieve that goal we are proposing a program of asset transactions, including sales, long-term leases and an innovative proposal for private sector participation, rather than increasing taxes or reducing services that Queenslanders rely on.”
The ins and outs of the state budget
- The decision has been made to allow private sector investment in power distributors, Energex, Ergon and Powerlink, in exchange for a share of future profits, which will spark a renewed union anti-privatisation campaign. The sales, leases and equity exchange will allow the Government to cut debt from a predicted $80 billion to $55 billion, which will reduce interest payments from $4 billion a year to $2.7 and put the State in line to reclaim its AAA credit rating.
- A plan aimed at enforcing the government crackdown on criminal motorcycle gangs has been given $14.2M (over two years). A second police helicopter based at Archerfield here in Brisbane has been doled out $3M, while the Legacy Way speed camera system, including fixed and point to point cameras, has been allotted $1M (on top of $2.9 million the previous year).
- Assets under consideration for sale include Ergon Energy’s retail business; SunWater’s industrial pipelines business; and electricity generation businesses Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy. Beyond these assets, Mr Nicholls said the Government’s innovative private sector investment proposal will allow the Government to retain 100 per cent ownership of ordinary shares in three electricity network businesses — Powerlink, Energex and Ergon Energy (excluding Ergon’s retail business) — but invite private sector participation via a hybrid instrument. The Government would also retain a share of revenue. None of the proposed transactions would take place until the Government has secured a mandate for them at the next state election.
- The Draft Plan of action outlines how three-quarters of the expected proceeds from the proposed asset transactions — $25 billion — will be used to pay down the State debt to $55 billion, a level recommended as sustainable by the Independent Queensland Commission of Audit.
- From the budget there will be $8.6 billion left over for infrastructure, including a $1.5 billion Southeast Queensland Roads fund, a $1 billion public transport rail fund and a $500 million natural disaster future fund.
- In health news, $300M has been allotted to the Community Hospital Fund. Health funding has been increased by 6.4 per cent to $13.6B. Regional hospitals have been allotted $170M, with a loss of $44M in preventative health funding, due to cuts made in the Federal budget.
- Pensioners got the short end of the stick with cuts to concessions of $54.2M in 2014-15 ($223M over four years). With this move, pensioners could lose 15 per cent of their concessions.
- On the infrastructure front, the Moreton Bay Rail Link has been allotted $374M, the Centenary Motorway will expand to six lanes at $41.4M, and the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing has been given $30.4M. Upgrading the Warrego Highway between Toowoomba and Miles has been allotted $18.6M.
- Education funding has been increased by seven per cent to $11.8B. Numeracy and literacy have been given $131M, and there will be 10 new schools for Queensland.
- Road safety has been funded $48.069M, and the cost of the average public transport journey has risen from $6.58 to $7.10.
What do you think are the big hits and misses with the state budget? Is the infrastructure funding enough to win your vote, or are you angry about the asset sales? Share your thoughts below!