2016 Budget in Reply
Mr ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (7.55 pm): This budget shows the government up for what they are: short of economic ability, devoid of any vision—
They are lacking in any courage to take the necessary decisions to make Queensland a better state. The Treasurer portrays the budget as building on the success of the past 17 months. That is not setting a very high bar, because very little has happened in the past 17 months. Certainly there has been no building on what little success the government might try to claim. The Treasurer also claims that the budget is pragmatic about the challenges that lie ahead, but being pragmatic implies actually doing something practical to address the issue.
This budget tries to ignore and skirt around the challenges facing Queensland and Queenslanders. As with last year’s budget, the central thrust of this budget is to move money around in areas of government revenue, to use slippery language and to claim the state is somehow better off. There is no new money, just shoddy and slippery accounting techniques dressed up as legitimate budgeting. The Treasurer might think it is clever, but it is the people of Queensland who will bear the brunt of his arrogance. The classic example of that is the $4 billion raid on the public servants defined benefit superannuation fund. That is an ill-considered short-term response to a much longer-term issue of economic sustainability which this government refuses to acknowledge. Now that they have taken almost everything they can from public servant’s superannuation and they have loaded up the government owned corporations with a huge debt, there is not an awful lot more to fall back on. I suppose the Treasurer and the Premier are praying for some economic miracle during the next 12 months to make up for the ineptness of this budget. Next year they will be left to their own devices, because there will be no more pockets of state government money that they will be able to raid to make up for their shortcomings.
How can anyone believe what is in this budget, when twice the Treasurer himself was caught out promoting errors that he had to correct on the record? He could not even do the simple task of calculating three per cent of $365,400 when talking about the increased stamp duty for foreign house buyers. Any grade 6 pupil, with or without a calculator, would be able to come up with the correct answer of $10,962, but not this Treasurer. This Treasurer thought the answer was $336. That came up a few days after he had used the incorrect figures when comparing the average tax paid by Queenslanders with the national average. In that case, Mr Pitt’s office said that it was not the Treasurer’s mistake; someone in his staff had made the error. The maths involved in putting together a $53 billion budget is much more complicated than those simple calculations. Therefore, it is very hard to have any confidence that the Treasurer knows what he is talking about.
Even without the tax error the Treasurer tries to make a virtue out of a vice in attempting to cover up state tax increases. He tries to hide the fact that this budget includes a broken election promise that Queensland tax rates will not rise. The budget papers make it clear that Queenslanders will pay more tax, but the Treasurer tries to justify it by saying that at least we are not paying as much as some other states or territories. Comparisons do not negate a tax increase and they certainly do not count when measuring this government against its promises and, more importantly, its fiscal record.
One of the biggest casualties in this budget is infrastructure funding which has been slashed. The Treasurer and the Deputy Premier trumpet that the budget includes $10.7 billion for infrastructure. The trouble is that that includes the $2 billion that they pinched out of the superannuation fund. Over the last eight years the state has been spending on average about $12 billion on infrastructure annually.
Even with the public servants’ superannuation contribution the amount is going backwards at a time when the state needs more infrastructure to cope with increasing population demands. At a time when he is raiding public servants’ superannuation, the Treasurer admits to hiring thousands more public servants. The $4 billion taken from the pension fund will almost be entirely eaten up by the $3.1 billion in employee expenses.
The size of the Public Service is set to balloon by almost 10,000 people using the 2015-16 budget estimate as a baseline. The news will not get any better for this Labor government because their mates in the Teachers’ Union have foreshadowed a 4.5 per cent increase in pay and the Police Union wants an additional 3.5 per cent increase in pay. That can only add to the $3.1 billion Public Service expenses bill.
If the people of Noosa were waiting for budget good news, well then they are going to have to wait for another 12 months or probably even longer. This budget provides almost nothing for Noosa. I have listened tonight to members of the government and the member for Dalrymple talk about the great benefits to their seats from this budget.
I know members are going to be gobsmacked, but in Noosa we have been very fortunate. In terms of new infrastructure spending a total of $40,000 has been allocated to repair a damaged walkway in the Noosa National Park. I say to members opposite that if they ever want a safe walk through the Noosa National Park they will be able to do that knowing that the wooden walkway has been repaired. It has cost $40,000. I would be more than happy to engrave the names of every member of the Australian Labor Party into one of the little wooden planks as a memorial to this state budget.
Surely with the money available to it—the $53 billion available to it—the Palaszczuk government could have found something significant for Noosa if they cared about it. They do not care so they did not. The few other mentions of Noosa in other budget papers are for programs that have already been announced or are already in the pipeline.
There is effectively nothing for the residents of Noosa. There is no mention of needed roadworks in the electorate. I refer specifically to the duplication of Beckman’s Road. There is no mention of job creation initiatives. There is no mention of public transport upgrades. There is no mention of support for struggling small businesses.
The Treasurer, in one of his pre-budget media releases, trying to milk this poor attempt at financial management for all he could, said it would ‘generate economic growth and create jobs now and for the future’. In the words of the infamous British prostitute Mandy Rice Davies, ‘He would say that, wouldn’t he.’
This struggling Treasurer has to defend and promote his budget with words because there are very few actions there to recommend it. The Treasurer was not the only person spruiking the budget before it was delivered. Brendon Lyon, the CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, said that Queensland ‘will need much more than clever accounting tricks or raids on the pension fund if it is to grow and prosper’. I think Mr Lyon is much closer to the truth than this Treasurer who is clearly out of his depth.
In his speech the Treasurer talked about this budget in terms of innovation, investment and infrastructure. A more appropriate trio of ‘i’ words would be inadequate, incompetent and ineffective. This is a budget of missed opportunities, misguided priorities and misdirected loyalties. It is not what Queensland needs. Queensland needs a significant plan to guide it through into the future.