Qld state budget: $11.2bn cost-of-living relief despite deficit blowout

Queenslanders will be handed billions in cost-of-living aid, including massive electricity discounts and public transport fare cuts, despite the state’s deficit hitting $2.6 billion.

Treasurer Cameron Dick presented his fifth budget on Tuesday, focusing in particular on the government’s efforts to reduce household bills despite admitting the deficit was exploding just months before the state election.

The record $11.217 billion in concessions will include discounts on electricity bills, lower fares for public transport and cuts in regulatory costs, as well as support for first home buyers.

Another $1.3 billion for community safety was allocated to police services, including funding for an additional 900 officers.

Queensland Health will receive $28.9 billion to fund a series of hospital upgrades and a plan to tackle ambulance sprawl across the state.

Queenslanders will go to the polls in just five months, with Labor far behind the LNP.

But Dick said people will be asked to make a choice about their future and not “express an opinion about the past” when they go to the polls.

In his budget speech, he said the state’s residents deserve “nothing less” from anyone who wants to lead.

“Queenslanders deserve to make choices about their lives,” Dick said.

“But in recent times many have been deprived of these choices by the ever-present constraints of global and national cost-of-living pressures.

“For many Queenslanders, the only choice is which bill to pay next.

“(This budget) delivers what Queenslanders deserve.”

But in a statement responding to opposition to the budget, Treasury spokesman David Janetski called the budget “for the next four months,” not the next four years.

“Today’s budget has highlighted that the Labor Party doesn’t have the right priorities for Queensland’s future,” he said.

“We are paying a high price for Labour’s failures on health, housing, youth crime and the cost of living.”

Janteszki said the Miles government had racked up “record” taxes and debt despite “revenues of gold”.

“Queenslanders deserve a government focused on the right priorities for the future of our state, not a government focused solely on re-election,” he said.

“We are paying a high price for Labour’s failures on health, housing, youth crime and the cost of living.”

Deb Frecklington, former party leader and current LNP spokesperson on energy and living costs, said the Labor Party had failed to provide structural budget help.

“Instead of a long-term plan, at the heart of this budget is more of the same decade-old Labor government that cannot be trusted,” he said in his own statement.

“Queenslanders have never struggled more with the cost of living than under this terrible Labor Government.

“After a decade of inaction, Labor wants Queenslanders to forget their cost-of-living failures in the run-up to the election.”

Among the key features, train, bus and rail fares will be reduced to 50 cents over a six-month trial period, which the government says aims to ease cost-of-living pressure and traffic gridlock that plagues the state’s roads.

The projected cost is $150 million from the budget.

Queenslanders are getting a further $1000 in electricity bill cuts, funded by royalties collected by the state from the coal and gas sector.

This amount is in addition to a $300 federal rebate paid quarterly.

The cost of rego payments will also be discounted by 20%, while the threshold for stamp duty relief for first home owners will rise to $700,000.

Mr Dick said Treasury estimated the combined effect of the measures on the cost of living would reduce Brisbane’s CPI growth over 2024-25 by 1¼ percentage points.

“This is expected to reduce Brisbane’s CPI growth for the year to just 2%,” he said.

The government expects to return to an operating surplus of $564 million for the current 2023-24 financial year.

Dick said a deficit of $2.6 billion is expected for the 2024-25 financial year.

“If a deficit is the price we pay to provide a nationwide cost-of-living reduction, then that is the price we are willing to pay,” he said.

The growth in tax revenue would also be offset by an expected decline in royalties, along with relief measures outlined in the budget, Dick said.

The state’s progressive coal royalty system, which brought in another $5.8 billion to Queenslanders last year, is expected to deliver another $3.6 billion this financial year.

However, budget documents say the impact of these royalties is expected to decline “significantly” compared to future estimates as coal prices normalize to around $1.3 billion in 2024-2025.

Earlier in the week, Nationals leader David Littleproud lamented the government’s approach, equating it to a “shutdown” of the sale of Queensland.

“They’re throwing money around like there’s no tomorrow, trying to subsidize their way to the election,” he told Sky News Australia on Monday.

“But it will end eventually.”

Crisafulli will give his response speech on the budget later.

He initially agreed to support the budget measures without having read them, meaning that the projects in this budget will still be financed even if his party wins the October 26 elections.

The wave of budget liquidity is widely seen as an attempt by the Miles government to rally support to help Labor reach a fourth term.

The Labor Party is heading for a landslide defeat, with a RedBridge poll revealing the party trailing the LNP 43-57.

Labour’s primary vote fell to 28%, a margin barely better than the disastrous result in 2012, when the party was left with just seven seats in government.

The LNP primary vote is around 47%.

Huge funds pumped into healthcare, capital works

A four-year $107.262 billion capital works program would support Queensland’s “record” population growth, Mr Dick said.

This includes $10 billion in transport infrastructure over the financial year, including $786 million to train manufacturing workers in Maryborough, central Queensland, and $514 million to continue construction of the Cross River project Rail.

Another $500 million will go towards the Logan and Gold Coast Faster Rail project and another $308 million will be invested in the third phase of the Gold Coast light rail.

“This is the largest annual capital works investment in Queensland history,” Mr Dick said.

“A record $19 billion, or almost 70 per cent of this capital programme, will be invested outside the Greater Brisbane region, supporting around 50,000 jobs.”

Additionally, $28.9 billion has been invested in the healthcare sector to provide 2,200 additional overnight beds in healthcare centers across the state.

This is a 10.6% increase in operational funding for Queensland Health.

Free meningococcal B vaccines will be distributed to infants, children and adolescents eligible for the program.

New hospitals in Bundaberg, Coomera and Toowoomba will be funded along with the expansion of 11 other hospitals, including Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

“A strong health system supports a healthy population,” Dick explained.

“And a healthy population means higher labor productivity and stronger economic growth.”

The $1.3 billion boost to frontline policing will include $52.3 million to support crime victims through a response program and $2.8 million for the Victim Liaison Service, which connects victims and their families with the prosecution during court proceedings.

Of the $21 billion earmarked for education, $1.274 billion will go toward major changes in schools, including upgrades across the state.

A further 30,000 free TAFE places will be allocated from 2024 to 2026.

Cost of living relief in the Queensland state budget for 2024:

  • • $1,300 electricity bill support: All Queensland households will automatically receive $1,300 off their bills in 2024-25 in the form of a $1,000 upfront rebate from the Queensland Government and a $300 rebate from from the federal government, paid quarterly
  • • 50-Cent Fares: A flat fare charged on the state’s TransLink transit network for six months starting Aug. 5
  • • 20% discount on car registration for 12 months
  • • Half-price Airtrain tickets to and from Brisbane Airport for six months from 5 August

    • $200 FairPlay vouchers available from 1 July to help Queensland children and young people aged 5-17 participate in sport

    • First Home Grant: Eligibility for the First Home Grant will be extended to homes with a rateable value up to $800,000

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