Queensland’s state debt is set to increase to $83 billion in the next four years, with new Treasurer Jackie Trad saying she makes no apologies for spending to drive the economy.
Ms Trad will hand down her first budget on Tuesday, which she said would include an increase in infrastructure spending.
“The Palaszczuk Government has made some very clear choices going forward, and that is we will borrow to build the infrastructure that our community needs now,” she said.
“Our borrowings are sustainable, they are stable, and in return what we get is a huge delivery in terms of infrastructure projects that our state needs.
“We need them now in terms of construction jobs, but we also need them for the future in terms of growing our economy and the jobs of the future that we know are out there, that we know are going to be created, because we’ve made this investment.”
The State Government today announced it will co-fund the Beerburrum-to-Landsborough stretch of the north coast train line with the Federal Government.
The budget will also include details of spending on Brisbane’s $5.4 billion Cross River Rail and M1 and Bruce Highway upgrades.
Ms Trad said gross debt was projected to increase to about $83 billion by 2021-22, while net general government sector debt would rise to about $42 billion.
“If you see how we compare to other jurisdictions we are about on par, in terms of our debt to gross state product it’s about 10 per cent,” she said.
“In terms of our cost to borrowings, it’s about 3 per cent — the Federal Government debt-to-GDP ratio is about 30 per cent.”
Ms Trad said debt as a ratio of revenue decreased from 96 per cent when the Newman LNP was in power to 54 per cent under the Palaszczuk Government.
“We think that’s a stable and sustainable level and we will continue to manage it responsibly,” Ms Trad said.
“What we won’t do is we won’t put the brakes on our economy.”
Interest equates to ‘$7,000 a minute’, Opposition says
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the State Government should focus on reducing debt to grow the economy.
“We can’t do that if we have a Labor Government that is continually focused on just slapping it on the credit card year after year,” Ms Frecklington said.
“Let’s remember this is $3.5 billion worth of interest each and every year and this equates to $7,000 a minute.
“The Labor Government needs to start focusing on building our economy, not racking up more debt for the next generation.
“This is a Government that has been in for three years and haven’t built any major piece of infrastructure.”
Rail duplication upgrade
Funding of $160.8 million will be included in Tuesday’s state budget for the Beerburrum-to-Nambour rail duplication.
The Federal Government has already committed $390 million for the project.
Ms Trad, with Mark Bailey, announced $160m for the north coast rail upgrade. (ABC News: Megan Kinninment)
Ms Trad said the 20 kilometre stretch between Beerburrum and Landsborough was the last remaining section of single track on the north coast line.
“We know that we need to duplicate this if we’re going to increase economic efficiency in freight, but also deliver faster passenger travel times for those commuters from the Sunshine Coast, around the Sunshine Coast and into Brisbane,” she said.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson welcomed the State Government’s commitment but said it fell short.
“The State Government’s business case released in December 2016 forecast this project would cost $780 million and we have a commitment on the table from the Federal Government to fund half of this cost at $390 million,” Councillor Jamieson said.
“This commitment may be enough to get the ball rolling, but quite simply, the residents of the Sunshine Coast expect that the project will be delivered in full and want to know when it will be delivered.”