How our government got the extra billions, while the rest of us are stuck with the zeros

Six months ago Queensland was warned that a big deficit might be on the way – but now we’re apparently rolling in cash. Madonna King has a few suggestions about how we might best spend it.

Dec 08, 2022, updated Dec 08, 2022
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick faces a handful of problems as the government heads towards its October election date.. (Photo: AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick faces a handful of problems as the government heads towards its October election date.. (Photo: AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

So the Palaszczuk Government is set to deliver a $5 billion – that’s $5,000,000,000 – surplus in this financial year.

And that’s a turnaround from a $1 billion – $1,000,000,000 – deficit that we were warned about six months ago.

In lay terms, without all those zeros, that means the Government got its maths terribly wrong. Or that it suits the Government now to tell us about all that money, when they risk losing some of it to Canberra perhaps?

Whatever the case, something doesn’t add up, and it raises three issues that the Government needs to address.

Firstly, why did the Government get its estimates so horribly wrong? It isn’t a few zeros out; it’s billions and billions out.

Now Treasurer Cameron Dick had an answer for this. He said it was because forecasting was really complex.

But how complex can it be? Just imagine being that far out, proportionately, on your household budget. Or your mortgage. Imagine if you opened your sock drawer, and a winning lottery ticket – you didn’t tell anyone about – jumped out. That’s akin to what we are now hearing.

It’s just plain difficult to believe that Treasury wasn’t able to see the pure gold that coal royalties would deliver when it is so soon after the Government, in June, warned us of tough times, and a deficit!

And this is just a simple suggestion, it but if our Treasury forecasts are so far removed from reality, should we try to employ forecasters that might be more on the money, so to speak? Because these are State Government coffers, and we have a right to know just how empty – or healthy – the State’s pockets might be.

Secondly, could it possibly have suited the Government and Mr Dick to cry poor at Budget time – but now that the prime minister Anthony Albanese wants to cap coal prices, it’s better to tell a story of how Queenslanders fat pockets are being raided?

“It’s anti-Queensland. We want our fair share. The Feds are stealing from us.’’ We’ve heard that mantra so many times before; and it sounds very close to what Annastacia Palaszczuk has been saying to rebuff her federal leader.

Gee, I hope that’s not the reason because it runs counter to everything Professor Peter Coaldrake warned about in his seminal report, only a few months ago, where he suggested voters had a right to know what the Government might be keeping from them.

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But it is the third point that is the most important of all. If we are so rich – and expect that mighty surplus – why is a big Queensland hospital being told to slash its budget by $9 million, which could mean two whole hospital wards?

Any real windfall derived from coal royalties is owned by all of us and that $5 billion could go a long way to fixing our health system.

Maternity units. Overstaffed emergency departments. Hospital wards where patients now lie in the corridor awaiting treatment. It could fund more nurses, and doctors and hospital orderlies. That money could work for Queenslanders, not only the Palaszczuk Government.

Fix health, and we’d still have money to burn – if we really are boasting such a huge surplus.

Anyone want a new school? Why don’t we lead the nation and pay our teachers properly? Or work with the Commonwealth to fund more university places, especially in the health area.

How about a Christmas bonus to help those who really need it pay their ballooning electricity bills? Or a big fat cheque delivered to Foodbank so that some families will have a turkey on the table this year.

New mammogram machines? More money to help domestic violence survivors? Ensuring our public schools had access to experienced counselling teams to combat the rising mental health challenges being felt by the State’s children.

The shopping list is endless. We just need the Government to show us the money.

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