Poles, pipes and power lines take pride of place in Labor’s Future Fund

The Palaszczuk government is quietly re-organising its planned Future Fund ahead of a mini-budget next week.

Sep 03, 2020, updated Sep 03, 2020
Treasurer Cameron Dick. Photo: ABC

Treasurer Cameron Dick. Photo: ABC

The Future Fund was announced last year by then treasurer Jackie Trad as a mechanism to help pay down debt. It was to have an initial $5 billion investment, including $3 billion from the surplus in the Defined Benefit Fund of public service superannuation holdings.

In July, her successor, Cameron Dick, announced a change in the composition of the fund, due to the economic downturn associated with the pandemic. Government assets would make up the bulk and only $1 billion would be transferred from public service superannuation holdings.

Dick said the Titles Registry would be part of the initial tranche of assets transferred into the fund, with others undergoing due diligence. Those assets – including the government’s stake in Virgin Australia, and Cross River Rail station precincts – would have an estimated value of at least $4 billion, he said.

“We will make sure that we maximise the value of our balance sheet by having our publicly-owned assets work as hard as they can for Queensland taxpayers.”

The government has since ordered Sunwater to hand over all financial and contractual documents regarding its unregulated assets, believed to largely be pipelines servicing mines in the Bowen Basin.

A similar direction is understood to have been made to another government-owned corporation, Powerlink, regarding its electricity assets in the region.

While Dick has claimed the fund will make it harder for any future Liberal National Party government to sell off assets, an LNP spokesman said Labor had yet to explain how it would work because the budget was cancelled.

“The Palaszczuk Government is the only State Government to cancel its budget,” the spokesman said.

“No budget means no plan for the economy and no plan for jobs. Sunwater and Powerlink’s focus should be delivering cheaper water and electricity for Queensland businesses not accounting treatments to paper over the Palaszczuk Government’s black hole.”

Dick will deliver an economic update on Monday, something also being described as a mini-budget, with the state election to be held on October 31.

The mini-budget will likely be a shorter document that a normal mid-year budget review and the traditional budget estimates process will take on another form next Friday.

Dick and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have said imposing border restrictions have not only limited the spread of the coronavirus but allowed Queensland to withstand the worst of the pandemic’s economic impact. This put Queensland in a position to benefit from hosting the AFL Grand Final.

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