The following is a response to the Queensland State Budget given by Aaron Dillaway (member for Bulimba) in Parliament on June 6th 2014. You can add your comments or questions at the end.
I rise to speak in support of the appropriation bills 2014. I congratulate the Treasurer on his third budget and commend the enormous work he has done in the past 21⁄2 years in his essential role in delivering our strong plan for a brighter future for all Queenslanders. We are dedicated to improving Queensland’s state finances through disciplined expenditure management. That is strongly evident in this budget. We again see government expenditure at record lows when compared to an average of about nine per cent for a decade under the former Labor government.
Actions speak louder than words and our results speak volumes, although there is still an enormous amount of work still to be done. Over the past couple of months, the Strong Choices campaign helped Queenslanders understand that in terms of being on the path towards regaining our state’s economic strength, we had arrived at a three-pronged fork in the road. They were put in the driver’s seat with the people’s budget tool. Do we increase taxes? Do we reduce services? Or do we sell or lease some of our assets? We had to make a choice—a smart choice.
As a government, we had stabilised the level of debt through a number of measures aimed at repairing the budget. There are limited opportunities for the government to implement further measures that will have a meaningful impact on the size of the state’s debt at $80 billion with a $4 billion annual interest bill. Queenslanders have indicated that they are less likely to want to steer down the road to reduced services or increased taxes. The proposed asset transactions could potentially reduce debt and deliver proceeds to a value of $33.6 billion at their current book value. Seventy-five per cent of this would be applied to provide a $25 billion reduction in the state’s debt, bringing it back to $55 billion. This new debt level would mean our annual interest bill would drop from $4 billion to $2.7 billion—an extra $1.3 billion that can again be reinvested into our economy. The remaining quarter of the proceeds would go towards the strong choices investment program that will help build more schools, hospitals and vital infrastructure needed for the growth and development of our state. I invite members of the Bulimba community to put their ideas forward by logging onto the Strong Choices website and have their say on how they would allocate this money to build the vital infrastructure we need for growth and development.
A strong economy is there for our taking but only under the strong leadership of this government which understands the importance of a well-managed economy and is willing to navigate Queensland in the right direction. By making the strongest and smartest choice to fix the state’s finances, we are securing a positive future for Queensland. We do not want Labor’s debt to be the next generation’s problem—our children’s problem. The choices we make at the next election will shape what that future will be—a bright future or the risk of going back to the recycled Labor candidates who know only one thing, and that is to deliver increased taxes, fees and charges, higher debt and untenable budget deficits. As we heard yesterday, they have no plan to take this state forward.
The government’s objective of responsible fiscal management is well balanced with its objective of revitalising front-line services in the 2014-15 budget. I am delighted that this budget will greatly benefit the Bulimba electorate in many areas. I look forward to continuing to deliver for my constituents in the next financial year and being their strong local voice in a can-do government. We have been working tirelessly to save and ease Queenslanders from having to pay the price of the previous government’s mistakes. That is why there are no new or increased taxes in this budget. I further welcome the Premier’s commitment during his ministerial statement on Thursday to ensure that our pensioners will continue to have access to their full concession entitlements that the federal Abbott government ripped away from our Queensland seniors.
When I delivered my maiden speech, I highlighted five priorities that my community and I believed were important to focus on in my first term. They were: to fight for improved public transport, to fight for improved educational outcomes, to fight for improved safety for our children around schools, to work towards a sustainable and liveable environment and, finally, to secure funding to recognise the important contribution sporting clubs play in our community.
As a strong advocate for public transport I welcome our government’s commitment to fund 75 new six-car trains. Earlier this year I was able to secure 266 additional services on the Cleveland train line. Already we have seen an increase in use equivalent to 8,000 journeys per week. That is equivalent to between 500 and 800 cars off the road each and every day. This is going someway to combatting the ever-increasing traffic congestion faced on the roads in and around the Bulimba electorate. No longer will we see the 15 per cent fare increases that we saw under the former Labor government year after year after year.
I also welcome our government’s continued commitment to funding education, which has increased by seven per cent to a record investment of $11.8 billion. We will see just under $900,000 to support literacy and numeracy in the early years across Bulimba state schools as part of the Great Results Guarantee funding. Over the past two years, we have seen considerable amounts of investment in school maintenance, new building programs and structures, and new programs for local education right across Bulimba, now totalling over $11.7 million.
I further welcome our government’s commitment to safety around our schools. In the past 12 months, we have seen flashing school lights installed in three locations to support Camp Hill State Infants and Primary School, Morningside State School and Lourdes Hill College. Recently, I launched a petition calling for the installation of flashing school lights along Riding Road to support Bulimba State School, Morningside State School and Saints Peter and Paul’s Catholic School. I will continue to fight for these safety measures to protect our children, their carers and motorists.
One of our most popular announcements is the continuation of the Everyone’s Environment grants of $5 million. Most recently, we have seen the Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee’s activities bolstered by these grants as well as providing heritage grants to the landmark Bulimba Uniting Church. I look forward to securing additional funding from this pool for our local Bulimba community over the next budget period.
A further $21 million has been provided for our Get in the Game sport and recreation program. I have witnessed the benefits that this program has already delivered, with kids playing sport when they may have not otherwise under our $150 Get Started vouchers over the past two years. Most recently, the Brisbane Sailing Squadron and the Brisbane Outrigger Canoe Club secured Get Going funding to support junior participation. There are a number of clubs that I will be promoting as worthy recipients of the Get Going and Get Playing funding, including the Morningside Panthers for their gym plans, Brisbane Riverside Rugby for new change rooms or field lighting and the Riverside Rebels for a scrum machine.
An additional $942 million will be spent on health, which is an increase of six per cent to a total of $13.6 billion, and I am happy to report that a total of $1.89 billion will go to Metro South alone. The stark contrast of the performance of the health system under the Newman government compared to the former Labor government is astounding. The Metro South Region results are a testament to the hardworking doctors, nurses and staff at our public hospitals. Long wait dental waiting lists have been slashed from 10,589 in March 2013 to zero, zip, zilch as at March 2014. Category one 30-day elective surgery waiting lists have improved from 81 per cent in 2012 to 89 per cent in 2014. We are seeing shorter stays in emergency departments; 55 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in 2012 and that has improved to 74 per cent of patients in 2014. Our hospital emergency departments now lead the nation.
I further welcome and will be fighting for some of the additional 267 police officers who will hit the beat over the next year as part of our commitment to deliver 1,100 extra police officers over four years. We have already seen crime rates across the Bulimba electorate fall, with break and enters down 26 per cent between March 2013 and March 2014 and assaults dropping 20 per cent over the same period. Our efforts to bring criminals to account with some of the toughest laws in the nation are clearly working.
As a father with three young children and as the state representative of an area that has a high number of young families, I strongly support our government’s new initiative of $406 million for child and family services in response to the Carmody inquiry. In addition, I was very excited to see $44.5 million committed to the Safe Night Out Strategy as the government’s initiative to address the increasing incidences of drug and alcohol related violence across Queensland.
Earlier this year, I conducted a survey across the Bulimba electorate asking for my community’s views to help form the government’s response to the issue. I note that the majority of the suggestions from people in the Bulimba electorate on how to tackle this important matter were taken up and now form part of our government’s comprehensive strategy. I look forward to the strategy’s implementation in the coming months. I congratulate the Treasurer again on a responsible budget that continues to deliver for Queensland. We have a strong plan for a bright future, and this budget will help see that plan come to fruition. I support the bills before the House.