Plenty of hands out as Treasurer starts work on Queensland Budget

Treasurer Cameron Dick will deliver the Budget on December 1. After Labor promised to protect the public service, there are calls to do more.

Nov 10, 2020, updated Nov 10, 2020
Treasurer Cameron Dick has delivered his mid-year Budget forecast. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Treasurer Cameron Dick has delivered his mid-year Budget forecast. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Labor won the election on the back of a scare campaign about the potential for a Liberal National Party government to cut thousands of public service jobs. While then LNP leader Deb Frecklington ruled it out, the Labor ad blitz continued until polling day, when unions urged voters to preference the LNP last (even though Labor wanted One Nation last).

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has yet to finalise portfolios in her third-term Cabinet – four seats are still in contention – but already has Dick back at work on the task of delivering the delayed 2020-2021 Budget.

Dick will pay for most of Labor’s election promises using some $4 billion in borrowings, however there are calls for him to do more with the Budget or by having Queensland take on extra debt.

The influential Queensland Teachers’ Union wants the proportion of the budget spent on education lifted above 25 per cent, warning that state schools are falling behind private schools and overseas counterparts. It also wants more money to be spent on TAFE, in addition to what Labor committed at the election.

QCOSS, the Queensland Council of Social Service, advocated during the campaign for more to be done to address poverty, social housing waitlists, and the lack of housing security. As the Federal Government starts to withdraw income support payments, this is likely to become a bigger issue for the states to deal with.

The Together public sector union has asked Dick to consider two research papers calling for any stimulus to be used to boost the workforce and address inequality, and for the government to avoid adopting any austerity measures in an effort to balance the Budget.

The Australian Medical Association Queensland branch welcomed Labor’s commitment for more palliative care funding, in line with a move to debate voluntary-assisted dying laws early in 2021. However, it has also called on the government to do more to combat mental illness, drug abuse, poor indigenous health and workplace health, and obesity.

After the election, Palaszczuk, Dick and Deputy Premier Steven Miles met with directors-general to set the agenda for the return to government. Palaszczuk made clear their priority was the Budget.

Dick said they had “already started work” on the Budget, focussing on jobs, the economic recovery plan and responding to the needs of all regions.

“It will be one of the most challenging, most difficult but also one of the most important budgets for decades in Queensland,” Dick said at the time.

The Budget will also give the first indication of Treasury’s forecasts for the shape, and duration, of the state’s economic recovery.

The Budget, coinciding with the resumption of parliament, will also be the first test for the new opposition, likely to be led by Gold Coast MP David Crisafulli and with a new treasury spokesperson.

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