Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls. Dave Hunt

Queenslanders can walk in the treasurer's shoes

THE decision to sell $32 billion worth of assets, increase taxes or cut services to solve Queensland's financial crisis is now in your hands.

A new interactive tool allows all Queenslanders to walk in the Treasurer's shoes and find a way to reduce the state's debt by $25-30 billion.

A sliding scale allows users to increase or decrease taxes or services.

Do you want more or less spending on education or health or roads?

There are more than 60 choices in all major spending areas in the full version but the (insert paper) will run a reduced version on its website.

Should you sell the Gladstone and Townsville ports or privatise the "poles and wires" section of Powerlink, Ergon and Energex?

The people's budget tool reveals Queensland could make more than $32 billion if it sold key Queensland assets.

They could pocket a potential $28 billion from allowing private investment in the three power companies, $3 billion for government-owned generators CS Energy and Stanwell and $1.7 billion for the two ports and the Mount Isa to Townsville rail line.

Each move deducts the saving or extra revenue from the $80 billion debt scale - based on Commission of Audit figures - above.

Then you can choose how to spend those savings.

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls insists the tool is not just for show and he will consider all feedback to make decisions about the impending State Budget and how to pay down debt.

Ultimately the decision will still come down to his government but he is resolute he will listen.

"This is the opportunity for every Queenslander to have their say on the choices and decisions we make," he said.

"It'll all very much goes into our decision making.

"By the time this closes on May 19, it will give us a snapshot of Queenslanders' view about to fix a very big problem.

"I wouldn't be doing this, if I didn't believe it had real value for the government in understanding what people think."

The $6 million Australia-first project - modelled on a New York campaign - follows Mr Nicholls' tour of regional Queensland to meet community and civic leaders.

He said not one person, including union leaders, had come up with a fourth option for reducing debt, which he says is necessary to fund infrastructure for Queensland's future.

Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said he was outraged the LNP would spend millions of taxpayer dollars on "a political advertising campaign to convince Queenslanders to sell public assets".

Especially when workers for Ergon - an electricity company that could face partial privatisation - toil hard to restore power in far north Queensland after Cylone Ita, he said.

"Once again today the Treasurer is using the flawed figures of the Costello audit to justify his proposal to sell of Queensland's revenue-generating electricity system, and our ports," he said.

"It's like suggesting to a household struggling to make ends meet that it would be a good idea to cash in the super, or sell the house and rent it back from the new owners, in order to pay back the mortgage."

"What you should do is get your expenditure and income in line before addressing the debt Mr Nicholls said he hoped the interactive tool would help people understand there was no simple solution to the debt crisis, and help him understand what Queenslanders valued most and where the government should make changes.

"If they all say to us we don't want to see a rise in payroll tax, we'll know our policy is in the right place around that," he said.

"They may well, when it comes to spending the money, say we think more money should be spent on road maintenance rather than big ticket projects to double Kingsford Smith Drive.

"So that will tell us we need to allocate money from one part of the transport budget to another

"It might tell us people want more money spent on rural and regional infrastructure; so regional Queensland might say we need some more money on fixing the Peak Downs Highway.

"It's not a poll and it doesn't mean the government will do everything suggested because obviously we can't (act on) every person's local issue but it will set broad themes and directions for where the government needs to go in terms of its saving, debt reducing and spending priorities."

Mr Nicholls said if the people's budget skewed away from asset sales, it meant people were okay with increased taxes or reduced services which would increase the wait time for driving licences, mining licences and other public services.

"So if it skews away from asset sales or service reduction, it can only logically mean taxes and not just a small increase, it's a very big increase to deal with the problem," he said.

"The majority feeling I'm getting so far is that people accept we will have to sell assets, that there is no desire to increase fees, taxes or charges either from the business or general community.

"There's very little desire to reduce services although cutting waste is something people do want to see."

Have your say today.



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