Author: 
Gail Slocombe, Senior Project Officer, QCOSS
Balancing money and people

Last week saw the third budget for Queensland Treasurer the Hon Tim Nicholls, MP.

You can see the Treasurer's presentation at the QCOSS Budget Breakfast on StudioQ.

It’s clear that we are experiencing tough times especially if you care about the state of Queensland’s debt level.  The over-riding theme of the budget has been that we are living with an $80 billion state debt which costs $4 billion per year in interest payments.  So, cut the debt and free up money to pay for better services into the future.  It sounds simple but of course it is far more complicated than that.

Firstly, we need to consider our present needs, balanced against our future expectations. Do we spend on services now where demand is high but there is a short shelf life of benefit to the state? Do we build infrastructure so that coming generations can benefit and any gains can project into the future? Do we raise more money by increasing taxes and levies or do we reduce spending by cutting costs and targeting programs? In all budget processes (except in excessive money splashes in good times), there are winners and losers or at the very least those who are disappointed.

Positive outcomes may flow from services which support families and their clients because of new funding and a real maintenance of the commitment to reform the child protection system in this state. Police, ambulance services, emergency services and schools all receive mention and investment to enhance their performance and effectiveness.  Infrastructure spending will support improvements in roads, public transport, hospitals and schools. Rural and farming communities in Queensland will benefit from drought relief funding which remains in place and pensioners and concession card holders had a win with the state government changing its plans and agreeing to cover the shortfall left by the federal budget measures.   The government prides itself on red tape reduction and money has been factored into the budget to advance this process and to spend the proceeds, together with a 3.25 per cent indexation for grant recipients to help off-set some of the price rises ahead.

It is clear that vulnerable Queenslanders will be worse off as they experience proportionally greater price hikes from increased charges and fees for utilities. Additionally there has been no commitment from the government for an overall concessions review to ensure the people who most need support are getting it.  It is unclear where else there may be disappointments with very little detail provided in the budget papers to make an informed analysis.

We need more details and we need the opportunity to work hand in hand with government to steer reforms forward.

Read more about the Queensland Government budget.

Read QCOSS’ 2014 budget commentary.

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