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Head to head: Premier and his challenger agree on the big-ticket item – but no quick fix

This year’s budget will be unprecedented in putting the most money back into hip pockets and household budgets of Queenslanders in the grip of a cost of living crisis, Premier Steven Miles has pledged at the first public debate with the State Opposition.

 

Mar 12, 2024, updated Mar 12, 2024

The live debate was hosted by The Courier-Mail and the Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS) with a heavy focus on the cost of living and housing crises.

Premier Miles and Opposition Leader David Crisafulli faced off in the hour-long debate which was book-ended by their individual plans to ease the burdens of Queenslanders.

Mr Miles said in his three months as Premier he knows how hard Queenslanders are finding the cost of living with rises in groceries, fuel and mortgages.

“I want you to know that we’ve heard that message and I want Queensland to be the place that does the most to support families and households. We’ve already made some important decisions, I froze rego and public transport costs on my first day as Premier,’’ he said.

Mr Miles said  while he was fortunate to have a well-paying job but has seen first-hand the rising cost of food first-hand doing his family’s grocery shopping.

He conceded the government’s current subsidies are not enough to ease financial burdens but said costs are at their peak which meant they “should turn a corner” and get better.

He said in the meantime until things improved his first budget in June as Premier will help support the community.

“I’m determined that our budget, my first budget, will do more than any government ever has in a budget to put more funds back into the pockets of families, back into household budgets. We’re still working through the details of how to do that,’’ he said.

Mr Miles said having a job was a key economic goal and low unemployment rates translate into wage increases.

“We support those increases in wages because we don’t just want Queenslanders to survive a cycle more than that we don’t want them to just make ends meet. We want them to get ahead and to thrive,’’ he said.

Mr Crisafulli said the tackling the cost of living, including the “out of control” prices of groceries, and bringing relief to Queenslanders was a priority for his party.

“At the heart of what we are doing today is about people and I want you to know that the cost of living is a priority for me,’’ he said.

He recommitted to his solar subsidy plan for renters as well as pledging not to sell private assets like electricity if his party wins government in October.

“I want Queenslanders to know today that I am serious about dealing with the long-term structural issues, those big picture solutions for those big problems that are weighing people down and there is a better way.

“At the moment Queenslanders are making choices that they never thought that they have to make- do I buy food or do I put petrol in the car to pay the power bill or do I get school uniforms and they are not choices that Queenslanders should have to make,’’ he said.

QCOSS selected the audience which included Queensland’s Meal board member Matt Webster who spoke of the elderly rationing their food and people under 65 with no government support.

Mr Webster said the organisation’s costs had jumped from 17 percent to 30 percent in the  past 18-months.

Meals on Wheels provides 144 services around the state, and has 7,000 volunteers helping feed 20,000 clients with three million meals annually, he said.

“We are shouldering a huge amount of work to try and help this cost of living crisis. On the ground we are with the elderly in their kitchens and in their fridges seeing what they’re doing. They’re halving meals, they’re thirding meals to make them last. It’s not acceptable

“We really need more help as an organisations and (as do) some of the other esteemed organisations in this room,’’ he told the leaders.

“We also help with social isolation and loneliness and an absolute epidemic,’’ he said.

Mr Miles said hearing Mr Webster was “heartbreaking” and was happy to look how the government could further help critical services like Meals on Wheels with the possibility of expanding Foodbank.

He said the government was right in first providing funding to critical homeless services before organisations like Meals on Wheels as it about getting people into accommodation.

Both leaders pleaded with an audience member, Rodney, to not go back to sleeping in his car.

Rodney told them he was at risk of losing his home as he was struggling on a single income, ineligible for support payments and could not afford to eat for four days out of every fortnight.

Premier Miles offered to speak with the man after the debate and urged him to contact the government for help.

Mr Crisafulli said Rodney’s plight was a failure of long-term housing in Queensland.

Earlier the Opposition Leader said the state’s Housing Investment Fund had failed to deliver new housing since its inception three years ago.

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