Is there an infrastructure crisis in Queensland?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Opposition Leader, Deb Frecklington, who slams the Palaszczuk Government’s budget, saying the government is fixing a problem of its own making when it comes to infrastructure.

Introduction: Is there an infrastructure crisis in Queensland?

Ross Greenwood: Can I tell you that Queensland is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most prosperous states in the whole of Australia in regards to the natural resources it has, the tourism that it’s got, the natural attractions, the wonderful housing, and property markets that it’s got. Well, can I tell you that today you saw the budget come down in Queensland by Treasurer Jackie Trad and, of course, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier?

What you’ve got right now is a government that has almost decided that it just wants to keep on building things and keep building debt because right now Queensland is going to become one of the most indebted states in Australia. In fact, I say that over the next four years, the debt will balloon by an extra $13 billion, so 83 billion. While other states such as New South Wales and Victoria got themselves out of debt pretty much, and then borrowed the money to start building infrastructure, Queensland, which promised when the Labor party came to power that it would basically try and have a significant debt reduction strategy has done nothing of the sort.

In fact, it’s gone the other way. What they’re going to also do at the same time is slug a whole lot of people with more taxes. It’s going to be local government and waste companies slugged with $70 a ton in a waste levy bidding operators a 15% consumption tax or net wagering revenue. Luxury car buys, a 2% tax for anything worth more than $100,000. There’s going to be big debts coming. Let’s go to the person who might offer the alternative view. That is the Queensland Opposition leader. Deb Frecklington is on line. Many thanks for your time, Deb.

Interview with: Deb Frecklington, Opposition Leader, QLD LNP,

Deb Frecklington: Good evening and good evening to your listeners.

Ross Greenwood:  In this regard, the one thing that is positive is there is infrastructure being built, and so from that point of view, the infrastructure program, $45 billion over the next four years does also achieve some projects that are necessary. Of course, it doesn’t address the bottom line of the budget.

Deb Frecklington: Well, Ross, we’ve got to be careful with– We haven’t seen this infrastructure being built at all yet. That’s the other thing. Let’s remember we’ve come off the Palaszczuk government the last three years where they’ve ripped the guts at $9 billion less in infrastructure over the last three years. No wonder we’ve got an infrastructure crisis here in Queensland when you take $9 billion of infrastructure spending over the last three years. If there is an infrastructure crisis in Queensland, it’s been put there by the Palaszczuk government.

Ross Greenwood:  You are the alternative leader, a political leader in Queensland. What’s there to be sold? What is there to be basically re-managed to try and pay down some of these debts and get the state budget back into order?

Deb Frecklington: Well, I think one of the biggest problems we have here in Queensland is we’ve got a premier who has bought down a budget of taxes, debt, and unemployment. She’s quite happy to have, like you’ve just said extremely well. We’ve got this debt level of $83 billion. On the other flip side of that as well, we’ve got five new taxes now. I just want to touch on that because this is a premier who went to the election last year, went to the election, signed it before new taxes and it would bring in a windfall of about $491 million.

Now, today in the budget papers, we’ve now seen this five new taxes and the windfall it is bringing is $2.25 billion. She’s ripping $2.25 out of our economy and we’re not seeing any benefit from it.

Ross Greenwood:  As I say, that would be okay if you saw that money going to budget repair or you saw it going directly and specifically to infrastructure. What you can’t say, you can’t say that because you can see the debts continuum draws. There’s no notion here of trying to repair the balance sheet.

Deb Frecklington: Let’s remember, we’ve seen in this budget a $1.5 billion windfall from royalties from the coal industry. Now, it was very interesting that Jackie Trad and Annastacia Palaszczuk who don’t believe in the resources in the coal industry here in Queensland, it was very interesting that in the budget speech, we’ve not heard the word “coal” mentioned once. We’ve not heard the word “resources.”

Ross Greenwood:  Well, that can’t because politically, given the contractual problems that there is with Queensland coal right now, and given the fact that there’s volume coming out of the Queensland industry because of problems with the Queensland or government trying to fix somehow, you’d have to say that is a fundamental issue that they can’t talk about.

Deb Frecklington: Well, they need to talk about it because Queensland is built off the back of some pretty amazing industries, be it agriculture, resources, tourism resources. Sorry, I already said resources. Construction. You can’t just turn your back on it. She’s got $1.5 billion windfall from the resources industry. Yet we’re not seeing any of that money going down to pay down their debt. In fact, we’re seeing this increasing debt. There is no plan. The figures are astounding. $3.7 billion a year in interest each and every year.

Ross Greenwood:  If you became the Premier of Queensland, which you very well could, you clearly have to address this budget and this debt. Given that the one way in which you may be able to do it is to start to sell assets. What assets would be on your list to sell?

Deb Frecklington: Well, look. We have not talked about that at all.

Ross Greenwood:  Well, you can talk about it now. You’ve got a lot of Queensland listening to you. It’s a good thing to do because there’s only different ways you can repair the balance sheet. You can come in and slash the budget massively, slash public servants. Do all of that type of thing not politically popular, but you can try and repair the budget for which you don’t get much political mileage. You can sell some assets. Now, this is about recycling assets and moving it on. That type of thing. The federal government’s done it. The state Governor in New South Wales and Victoria have done it. That’s what Queensland ultimately would do.

Deb Frecklington: Well, look. We took that plan the last election and we ended up in opposition back to election.

Ross Greenwood:  Well, you can do the alternative which is to go into more debt. That’s not going to work for you either.

Deb Frecklington: Well, but first of all, we can start living within our means. We can look at the budget and how it is blowing out a billion dollars extra every year for our public servants, for example, yet we’re not seeing any benefit in improving of services. We have got some major issues with just government finances. We’ve seen the Premier and the Treasurer now, they’ve moved the general government debt to a government-owned corporation. There is no plan to actually control government expenses. I think the first thing we need to do is have a look at the figures and start and controlling the government expenses. What are they spending all this money on? I’ve got a $1.5 billion windfall from the coal industry. We’ve got a $9 billion on the spend from the last three years of lack of infrastructure.

Ross Greenwood:  They’re spending it on public servants. You and I both know that, Deb.

Deb Frecklington: I’ve just said that, a billion dollars extra every year on an increased bureaucracy. Let’s remember, that is not on frontline services. It’s not on nurses and most of these people are getting over $200,000 a year.

Ross Greenwood:  Surely, you’re the symbol of– I’ve got to keep on moving. I appreciate your time. We’ll come back  about this because it is so important. The only thing I can say because I did last time around so that I haven’t been able to do at this time is take the surplus of off the top of the public servants’ superannuation pot. They did that last time. I wasn’t there to [crosstalk] this time around. I say, Deb Frecklington, I appreciate your time on the program.

Deb Frecklington: Thanks very much.

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