Union members have protested outside the Queensland treasurer’s first invite-only meeting in Cairns to discuss asset sales.

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls has defended an invite-only meeting in Cairns on whether to sell assets, and warned unions yelling and screaming on the sidelines is futile.

The closed-door meeting was held with selected community leaders, local MPs, the chamber of commerce and mayors on Tuesday and was the first stop on a regional tour.

A small group of union members held a low-key protest outside and labelled the event a sham.

Queensland Council of Unions Cairns spokesman Heath Mitchell told Mr Nicholls unions want to be acknowledged.

“And have our points of view heard in these early stages, not after it has been decided,” he said.

On the way into the meeting, Mr Nicholls said wider public consultation is planned in the coming weeks, including open Town Hall meetings.

“We will be looking to engage with unions during the course of our debate as well,” he said.

“We’re very happy to have that debate, I think though what we need to do is make sure we look at getting some solutions.

“We can have people yelling and screaming from the sidelines, but that isn’t going to fix that $80 billion cloud of debt.”

Mr Nicholls has said Queenslanders have the choice between increased taxes and charges, reduced services or support the sale of some public assets.

Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt says the government’s pitch for asset sales was based on “doomsday scenarios”.

“It’s a narrative that has been set up to suggest Queensland is going broke,” he told media.

“There is a third option which is growing our state economy.”

The government will consider selling two electricity generators and leasing the Gladstone and Townsville ports if it secures voter support for the plan at next year’s election.