OPINION: Mid-year budget based on "one-off measures"

WHATEVER way you look at it, Treasurer Curtis Pitt's mid-year budget review shows Queensland's budgetary position is weakening under his stewardship.

Queensland's economic growth has been revised down, debt continues to increase towards $80 billion and the government continues to spend more than it earns.

The most concerning aspect of these sobering numbers is the Treasurer's refusal to acknowledge there is a problem.

And if Mr Pitt needs proof there is a problem, he should actually make the time to read the Queensland Auditor General's report into the state's finances, released last week. 

The Auditor General argued the Palaszczuk Government needed to apply "more permanent solutions" to reducing debt in Queensland, which is "higher than that of every other state in Australia".

Instead of coming up with a plan, Mr Pitt has tried every trick in the book to conceal the magnitude of the state's woes.

The state budget revealed a $4 billion debt shift onto government-owned electricity companies and a $5 billion raid on funding for public servants' superannuation and long service leave entitlements.

The mid-year budget review had more of these tricky crash grabs, with the Treasurer revealing he would shift almost $1 billion of debt onto our port and water companies.

Despite this, Queensland's debt position continues to worsen.

The state's total debt, that is the debt guaranteed by Mr Pitt as the Treasurer of Queensland, the debt the ratings agencies consider, will reach $79.7 billion in four years' time.

Mr Pitt has argued he is shifting debt on to these companies in a bid to reduce government debt, but the mid-year budget review shows general government debt increasing to nearly $41 billion, $200 million more than originally forecast in July's budget.

Mr Pitt is treating these businesses like cash cows, shifting debt on to them and ripping as much money as he can out of them to prop up his budget, and unfortunately it's Queenslanders who will end up paying more.

In releasing the update last week Mr Pitt couldn't rule out these businesses passing on the costs of additional borrowing to customers, including farmers who may have to pay more for their water.

The biggest problem with the Treasurer's budget strategy is that it is entirely based on one-off measures.  You can only shift debt onto these companies once.  You can only strip $3.4 billion out of public servants' long service leave funding pool once. 

As the state's Auditor General put it in his report to Parliament, "these actions are short term strategies that cannot be relied upon indefinitely", and they are going to negatively impact the budget in the long term.

The simple fact is Queensland's debt position is only worsening, and now there are no more hollow logs to raid Curtis Pitt has run out of tricks. 

While Queensland's economic growth this year is forecast to be the highest in the nation - this is off the back of LNG exports growth - domestic economic growth will be sluggish.

Unemployment is forecast to remain at 6.5 per cent for the next two years, business investment has dropped by more than 20 per cent since the March quarter and trend building approvals have declined for seven consecutive months.

Queensland is also facing a $50 billion infrastructure black hole and Treasurer Pitt's budget strategy does nothing to address these issues.

The mid-year budget review was framed more around Labor's broken promises regarding the size of the ministry and the failed merger of the electricity generators, than it was around investing in job-creating infrastructure.

Labor has broken nearly every election promise it made, and it didn't make very many.

Sadly, these broken promises are a sign of a government that has no strategy for securing the state's economic future.  We need a government that is prepared to step up and make decisions, rather than put everything to a review.  That's what the LNP promises to deliver.

The LNP Opposition is positive about where the state of Queensland is headed.  Queensland is uniquely placed to capitalise on growth in a range of sectors, including education and training, tourism, value-added manufacturing and services and knowledge based industries.

We need a government that has a plan to secure that growth.  That is what the LNP offers, with our stable, experienced and competent team.

Queenslanders should by no means be down about our future.  But we need a government that is prepared to confront the challenges Queensland is facing, rather than ignoring them.

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