While many of Australia’s state governments grapple with high debt and deficits, the Sunshine State has unveiled a record $12.3 billion surplus in today’s Budget.
Treasurer Cameron Dick announced that most of the surplus will be used to pay down state debt, much as his fellow Queenslander Jim Chalmers did in the Federal Budget in May.
With the Palaszczuk Government’s focus narrowing ahead of the next election in October 2024, the 2023-24 State Budget firmly targets rising cost of living pressures and areas of recent public concern including health, youth justice and housing.
Today’s Budget was one of records, including a $12.3 billion budget surplus and a $8.2 billion cost of living package, much of which was underwritten by booming coal prices and a controversial royalty scheme.
The Palaszczuk Government’s decision to borrow heavily during the pandemic to maintain infrastructure and health spending has been tempered by strong global commodity prices, resulting in an earlier than forecast surplus.
Nevertheless, the Treasurer did indicate his willingness to keep future Budgets in deficit if it relieves the pressure on household and family budgets.
In addition to paying down debt and addressing cost of living pressures, the Government announced increased funding in areas of recent public criticism: healthcare, youth justice and housing (areas the recent minor cabinet reshuffle also sought to address).
This year’s approach is consistent with the Palaszczuk Government’s previous budgets – strong investment in infrastructure, health and energy with targeted spending to address political vulnerabilities.
It’s clear that financial pressures are starting to hit household budgets. SEC Newgate’s most recent Mood of the Nation report found that many Australians (47%) are more anxious due to the rising cost of living and unable to purchase their usual groceries (30%).
The Budget includes a number of measures that directly target Queenslanders’ hip pockets:
As Premier Palaszczuk seeks to win a historic fourth term, it is clear the Government is keen to emphasise cost of living pressures as national issues and that the structural (and political) problems facing her long-term government are not exclusive to Queensland.
The Government’s record spend on cost of living support, combined with the increased investment in energy projects to achieve the ambitious 80 per cent renewable energy target by 2035, will see the state’s books fall into a $2 billion deficit next year.
The Government has one more budget to deliver in June next year before the election in late October 2024.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has confirmed it will continue to oppose the coal royalty scheme introduced in last year’s Budget. With business groups threatening to mount a similar campaign against the Federal Government’s ‘same job, same pay’ workplace reforms, there could be a coalescing of opposing views against Labor Governments by business groups.
Opposition Leader David Crisafulli will deliver his Budget Reply speech in the Queensland Parliament on Thursday.
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