Queensland unions will meet with the treasurer next month to discuss the proposed sale of public assets to cut state debt.
Queensland unions have agreed to meet with the state’s treasurer to discuss the possibility of asset sales.
Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams says he has accepted Tim Nicholls’ invitation to discuss privatisation and other budget measures on April 7.
“But we expect that as well as that meeting, there be public meetings to allow ordinary Queenslanders to express their view,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.
“Everybody has a right to talk with the treasurer about this sell-off.”
Mr Nicholls has stressed a decision has not been made on asset sales, but listed it as one option, along with higher taxes and reduced services, to help reduce the state’s debt.
The treasurer earlier this week painted a gloomy picture of the state’s budget outlook, saying Queensland was headed for a debt of $121 billion if drastic policy changes were not made.
Mr Battams accused the treasurer of scaremongering to justify unpopular asset sales.
It was the same tactic used to justify sacking thousands of public servants, he said.
“The budget is now in a worse position fiscally than when he took over,” Mr Battams said.
“People of Queensland should not listen to the solutions the treasurer puts forward as the only solutions.”
Mr Battams said the budget’s problem was revenue had dropped by more than $4 billion because of the state of Queensland’s economy and the focus should be on improving that side of the ledger.
He said he expected the Opposition to put forward a different proposal because floating the idea of asset sales cost Labor the last state election.
Mr Nicholls on Tuesday said there needed to be a $25 billion correction in the state’s coffers to restore its AAA credit rating that could involve a combination of asset sales, higher taxes and reducing services.
He cited the Queensland Treasury’s economic and fiscal challenges report, which included forecasts beyond projections made in last year’s budget.
It showed a fiscal surplus would be reached in 2015-16, as planned, and maintained for a couple of years.
But in the longer run, if there was no change in policy, spending would rise as an ageing population put pressure on services, prompting debt to increase to $121 billion.
Mr Nicholls chastised the unions for taking time to accept the meeting after complaining they weren’t involved.
“I just simply say to unions if they are going to be involved, `come with an open mind, we have an enormous challenge to meet’,” he said.
“If unions come along, I welcome that. I look forward to meeting with them and seeing what their constructive solutions are.”