The vanilla Qld budget 2014
Brisbane Times state political reporter, Amy Remeikis, described the Queensland budget for 2014 as “vanilla”.
Not much in it really for Queenslanders, more about what the government intends to do post-election 2015 in a plan to sell off the state’s assets. The Newman Government will spend $5.2 million in an advertising campaign commencing this week to convince Queenslanders to sell, privatise and lease state assests to raise $33.6 billion. It follows a $6 million “Strong Choices” pre-budget campaign to highlight the problem of government gross debt.
In the budget, the government boasted its’ achievement of no new taxes or raises. However, Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls had all ready snuck in a tax increases at the 2013 budget with a 1.5 per cent stamp duty increase on insurance premiums. Effectively, this amounts to a $1.045 billion debt increase on households and business which will be delivered in full to the government by 2015-16 financial year.
This was Treasurer Tim Nicholls’ third deficit budget, the deficit rising from last year’s $664 million to $2.27 billion with royalties from coal mining and payroll tax revenue falling short of expectations.
The government chose to focus on asset sales and gross debt. The Courier Mail obliged and there were no shock “budget blowout” headlines or front pages.
Much of the debate in the house focused on gross debt which the government attributed to Labor. LNP MP after MP soaked up time in the chamber with talk of “Labor’s credit card” and “$80 billion of Labor’s debt”, likening borrowings to a bank loan.
However, in Labor’s last Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Review (MYFER), the gross debt was registered at $65 billion. The gross debt now resides at $80 billion and is projected to rise to $82 billion in 2017-2018.
The bottom line, net debt, was at $28 billion when the LNP came to power and now sits on $41 billion.
Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC), which conducts the borrowings for Queensland’s state government, local councils and other entities, forecasts it will issue more government bonds/notes for the Qld government worth $3.8 billion over 2014-2015. (Government bonds trading is more like the share market and less like a loan from a bank).
All governments and councils need to work on a balance of raising taxes/rates from their citizens and borrowing funds to provide the services and projects they need. Coupled with this, the government can also sell assets. However, depending on the asset, it may lose a revenue stream.
Recently, the Abbott Government indicated that it would begin scaling back it’s contribution to the states and territories for health and education.
No matter who forms government in 2015, increased pressure will be applied on the state to provide services and projects.
Treasurer Tim saves pensioner’s from concession cuts
Call it a political stunt, call it a back-flip or call it a victory for the Labor Opposition. Two days after the budget, the Newman Government changed its’ mind on cuts to pensioner concession rates.
The Federal Government had indicated that it would reduce the size of the pool of money it contributed to Queensland for concessions by 15 per cent or $54.2 million. The cuts would have seen less money allocated to pensioners for such items as electricity, water and gas rebates. Seniors would also have had to contribute more to the cost of public transport.
Premier Campbell Newman shook his head in parliament and demanded Prime Minister Tony Abbott reverse the decision.
With the federal budget some weeks away from passing, Treasurer Tim Nicholls announced that there was just no money to make up the shortfall.
Call it a pre-cut cut.
— Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9) June 2, 2014
Angry tweets flew, frantic calls to talkback radio were made and bad publicity hit the nightly news. The Newman Government was in trouble.
Twenty-four hours later, all was well again. Treasurer Tim came to the rescue and was greeted in the loving embrace of pensioners. He’d found that spare $54.2 million.
Solar powered champagne sippers and latte drinkers
Treasurer Tim Nicholls also made headlines when he attacked “middle-class welfare” over the solar household rebate scheme instigated by the previous government. Despite a pre-election pledge to lower power bills, the Newman Government has spent the last two years blaming Labor, the carbon tax, the solar power rebate scheme and the “gold plating of poles and wires” for repeated increases in the cost of electricity to households.
In the lead up to the 2012 Queensland election, Nicholls had sent a letter to his Clayfield constituents pledging to lower power bills should his party form government.
However, Nicholls overstepped the mark with the electorate when he described those who had taken advantage of the scheme as “champagne sippers and the latte set”.
You can read more on how the event unfolded at our NoFibs special report, “Those solar powered, champagne sipping, latte drinkers”.
Death threat allegations against David Gibson
Outgoing LNP MP for Gympie, David Gibson, returned from personal leave to deliver a shock allegation to the house. Using parliamentary privilege he named LNP member and police officer, Llew O’Brien as having made death threats against him. He also claimed the threats were delivered at the behest of the LNP.
Queensland police would not comment to the media on the claims.
Gibson decided not to contest the next election after past misdeeds were revealed by a political rival within the party.
You can read more about the MP for Gympie at NoFibs report; “Does LNP Gympie MP David Gibson deserve a third chance?”.
Stafford Votes – Is it Bob or Jared?
The LNP named its’ candidate for the Stafford by-election this week. The electorate was vacated by the resignation of LNP MP Dr Chris Davis after a series of disagreements with his own government.
Premier Campbell Newman announced Bob Andersen as the contender to resume the seat for the LNP.
However, an investigation by NoFibs revealed “Bob Andersen” is a trading name. The person behind that name is, Jared Andersen.
Read more on the mystery here at, “They call me Bob – Follow the mystery trail on the LNP candidate for #StaffordVotes”.
For the latest on the by-election, bookmark the NoFibs #StaffordVotes blog here.
Greatest hate sprung from greatest love – Palmer referred to CMC
“All Queenslanders know that I love Campbell Newman! I love his family! I admire his wife! I think it’s fantastic!” declared Clive Palmer on Queensland election night, March 24, 2012, as the LNP swept to power.
He’d been involved with the LNP since the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era and was one of its’ biggest donors. However, just eight months into Newman’s leadership of Queensland, Clive Palmer was on his way out of the party.
His stoush began with Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, Jeff Seeney, who had been around a long while as well. The two combatants clashed over approvals for coal mining, railways and ports in the lucrative Galilee Basin.
Palmer had his coal mine approved but the rest, Seeney would not allow. The two sparred in the media over the ensuing years, Palmer even named one of his dinosaurs at his famous Palmer Coolum Resort, “Jeff”.
Palmer eventually formed his own party, Palmer’s United Party (PUP) which ultimately allowed him to win the federal seat of Fairfax and entered federal politics.
Late on Friday, Seeney revealed he’d referred Palmer to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) over an April 2012 meeting in which he alleged Palmer had presented him with a draft bill for his approval for the railways and a port.
Seeney told ABC’s 7.30 Qld that Palmer indicated the draft bill, “would give him the exclusive right to build a port and a railway and have control of the Galilee Basin”.
“I rejected that completely so I didn’t even read it,” Seeney explained.
“I pushed it back across the table and told him that wasn’t the way we would be doing business.”
“Clive Palmer wanted specialist treatment on the basis that he had been a supporter of our government. He wanted to bypass the proper processes and we weren’t prepared to do that.”
Clive Palmer responded by calling Seeney “a f—ing liar”
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) June 7, 2014
Why did Seeney wait two years to lodge this complaint with the CMC?
Most likely, the Newman Government wanted to wait to make its’ changes to the corruption watchdog. As we’ve seen in NSW, at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), investigations have a habit of starting in one party, ending up in another and bringing down Premiers. Recent changes to the CMC watered down its’ independence and now allow the power of veto to the Attorney-General on investigations.
Also, with the 2015 general election on approach, any scandal involving Palmer may deter traditional LNP voters from turning to PUP, especially in the regions and mid to northern Queensland.
Bleijie backdown: Union ballots for campaign spending repealed
The Newman Government repealed a section of its’ own laws this week, the union transparency legislation. Introduced in 2013, the laws prevented unions from spending members money on political campaigns.
A case in New South Wales on similar legislation was struck down by the High Court. Spooked by the decision, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie quietly had the section repealed on Thursday night as nightly news bulletins went to air.
Queensland will be watching closely to see if more of Bleijie’s hastily drafted laws such as the anti-association, Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) bill, will be repealed after they take a turn in the High Court.
Election prediction: March 2015
I predict the Queensland general election will be in March, 2015.
I had help.
It was a rudimentary pro-budget speech to parliament from the LNP MP for Mermaid Beach and Manager of Government Business, Ray Stevens, but it contained an interesting slip.
“The Premier is in agreement with giving Queenslanders a voice and has explained that it is about exchanging and recycling old assets for new assets, but the issue of selling some of the assets will not happen until after the election next March.”
Looks like the Newman Government intends to go full term. Perhaps this is one of the few promises Newman will keep.