What a Happy Holiday
It has been wonderful to see our fellow Queenslanders using the school holidays to support outback tourism.
With Gregory covering one quarter of Queensland, I’ve been particularly pleased to hear about a lot of family holidays taken within Gregory.
Start of a New Winter Tradition?
People are telling me how much they have enjoyed the change. Many who usually head to the beach have discovered the joy of starry bush nights and interesting days. Could it be a new winter holiday tradition for CQ families?
Border Re-Opens to More Holiday-Makers
Today we open our borders to all our fellow Australians except, Victorians. This will coincide with the last week of the school holidays in NSW and the ACT.
Queueing to Get In!
Media are reporting this morning that people had camped at the Gold Coast border crossings overnight, waiting for the lunch-time opening. Some 238,000 Queensland Border Declaration passes have been completed and granted. As these only last for seven days, then have to be renewed, this is a good indication of visitor intentions.
Mandatory testing will apply for 14 days after the crossing for visitors and returning Queenslanders if they develop symptoms.
Victoria is the Exception
In contrast, the border has now been completely closed to Victorians and to anyone who has visited Victoria in the last 14 days.
This is a toughening of the old policy that required a two-week hotel quarantine. From noon today all Victorian residents will be denied entry and turned around, regardless.
Queenslanders returning from Victoria will be allowed entry with a mandatory quarantine at their own expense in a hotel nominated by the Government. However, Queenslanders are being strongly encouraged not to travel to Victoria at all.
So Why All the Victorian Number Plates in Queensland?
Many Queenslanders are hiring recreational vehicles and motorhomes to holiday within Queensland.
According to the ABC, large quantities of hire vehicles are registered in Victoria even though they may spend their entire life in Queensland. Why? It is a lot cheaper to register a vehicle in Victoria than it is in Queensland.
Additionally, many Victorians are already in Queensland quite legally and have been here since before the borders closed.
Let’s trust the border authorities to do their job and welcome our visitors. Everyone is having a grim year, so spread the outback joy.
Twenty Seconds and Soap for Safety
The Victorian experience provides an un-needed reminder to us all that we must continue to observe the social distancing rules and wash our hands with soap at every opportunity.
This is a great video to share with the kids. It shows how soap kills the corona virus. It also shows why you must lather for a full 20 seconds to kill it. I have posted this before, but it is still true. It is still important.
Test if You Have Any Symptoms
It is also important to ask for a test if you develop any symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue, aches and pains, headaches, stuffy nose and head. Remember, any symptoms, not all, and isolate yourself at home until you receive the test results.
Don’t Move the Furniture
Some outback pubs got stung for over $6,000 this week for not enforcing social distancing requirements. The LNP will be raising this in Parliament next week, not least to know how many similar fines have been handed out down south.
Many country pubs are just managing to keep trading, so the fines are a real blow. I just want to remind you not to move the stools and tables in pubs, cafes and restaurants. Ask first because your host must abide by a COVID19 plan.
One of the fines involved patrons playing pool and not social distancing. We need to be aware at all times because our actions affect our hosts and their staff.
Strictly No Dancing
Also be aware that Queensland has a strict “no dancing” rule as part of COVID19 social distancing restrictions.
I am told this applies to public venues like nightclubs, concerts and pubs. I believe it also will apply to weddings, which may mean it will scoop up school formals as well. We will have to hope for a clear direction on this, but at the moment it is “Strictly No Dancing”.
The exceptions? Strippers and aerobics classes – but only with strict social distancing observed.
COVIDSafe Plans Now Being Updated
When I wrote last week, the COVIDSafe Plans for Industry and Business were still being updated. You can check the plan for your industry or business here. Note there are plans for both outdoor team sports and places of worship on this page.
Learner Driver Testing Fully Re-Opens
The backlog of driving tests created by the suspension of tests in March has now officially been dealt with.
Practical driving tests will be open to all learner drivers from 10 a.m. Monday 13 July. The interior of the car must be clean and free from dirt and rubbish. You can book online here.
Learner License Renewals Waived Until September
The fee for Learner License renewals will continue to be waived until mid-September. This includes Learner Licenses that have expired.
Queensland’s Budget Still A Tale of Unknowns
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick has been heavily featured in media yesterday and today speaking about how Queensland will pay our bills and recover from COVID19.
The purpose was two-fold: firstly, to reassure the credit-ratings agencies about our sovereign debt and, secondly, to start building an election story that our bad situation is not due to mis-management but to the impact of the corona virus lockdowns.
The Man with the Plan
Leaving that to one side for the moment, what is the plan? The headliner is that he will find $3 Billion in budget savings over four years, put a lid on the state public service growth and slash spending on consultants, social media accounts and glossy brochures.
But No Answers
While giving his usual polished media performance, Treasurer Dick couldn’t say exactly how much the state debt is and Queensland is going to have to vote without knowing.
We are the only jurisdiction which will not bring a budget down this year.
The excuse given is the COVID19 crisis, but every other state, territory and the Commonwealth of Australia is delivering a budget while dealing with the corona virus.
Don’t Know How Many Public Servants
Despite public service reforms being the centre of the plan, Treasurer Dick could not say how many public servants Queensland has, because the figures haven’t been released.
We should have been able to see the figures three months ago.
Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are!
I went looking for clues. The Courier Mail said in June 2019 there were 229,947 full-time public servants.
In October, the Courier Mail reported that the Palaszczuk Government had put on an extra 33,100, including 3,375 in the highly paid, senior ranks.
More Than One in Ten Of Us
Alarmingly, it reported, that means more than one in ten Queenslanders are now employed by the State Government.
The following month, November 2019, the Australian told us that Queensland’s public sector pay bill - at $28.5 Billion for the last financial year - was $6.3 Billion more than the federal government’s.
Bigger than the Feds
That’s right. Our state public service costs more than the entire federal public service. And that’s not counting the consultants.
If you are feeling a little bit “over governed”, this might be part of the problem.
Will Jackie Trad’s Razor Gang Save Me?
In the last budget, back in June 2019, Treasurer Trad established a public service razor gang. Its mission: to find $1.7 Billion in savings over four years.
It was grandly called the Service Priority Review Office and headed by an “embedded” PwC consultant.
It over performed, according to yesterday’s Australian, finding $715 million in savings in 2019-20.
Razor Gang Axed!
Some toes must have got trodden on, because Treasurer Dick announced this week, he had scrapped it and brought all the work back in-house to the Treasury Department…that is, back to the public service.
Given Up on Hiring a Chief Economist
At the same time he said he would no longer be hiring a Chief Economist and instead promoted senior Treasury bureaucrat Dennis Molloy. They had been trying to hire a Chief Economist for eight months. Apparently, no-one wanted that jam on their toast.
Treasurer Dick refused to tell Queenslanders either the current debt level or the projected debt level. So, back to the archives.
On 13 December 2019, the Australian Financial Review reported that our debt situation had worsened since the June 2019 budget by an incredible $1 billion. Remember, this is pre-COVID19 when coal royalties were still flowing.
“Queensland’s total debt – which was already the worst in the nation- was due to top $90 Billion by 2022-23,” the newspaper reported.
“But the budget update revealed total debt is now due to top $91.7 billion over the next four years.”
To put that in context, the ABC reported that PNG had reached out to China for help when its sovereign debt reached $11.8 Billion in August last year. Before COVID19, our sovereign debt was more than $90 Billion.
And Post COVID19?
So, while we don’t know the specifics, I have little doubt that COVID19 has only seen all those figures grow. There have been necessary increases in all sorts of expenses in order to deal with the health issues and with the social aspects of enforcement. There has also been loss of revenue as business shut down and taxes have been deferred or waived to assist them.
As economic activity falls world-wide, we are even likely to see prices for our natural resources decline, taking royalties down too. Yesterday, the Australian Financial Review predicted the debt will be well over $100 Billion.
We need a Plan, Not a Sham
he only bit of it that looked at all like a plan was the chatter around the Queensland Future Fund. This was announced by Treasurer Trad last budget as a way of meeting interest repayments on our debt. It was to commence with $5 Billion.
Treasurer Dick has announced that the government’s stake in Virgin Australia will form part of the $5 Billion. Other state owned assets, such as regulated water and power assets, will also be transferred there.
Whether this will achieve the financial aims of the Future Fund remains to be seen, but Treasurer Dick says it will place these assets in “a lock-box to protect them from being privatised by the LNP”.
The Only Party That Ever Sold Assets Was Labor
What a gas-lighter of a statement! The only government that ever sold Queensland assets was the Labor Government of Anna Bligh. They did it on the sly, without giving Queenslanders any say in the matter.
They sold the coal freight rail business and lost that royalty income. They even sold the Golden Casket which used to help fund our free public hospital system.
The LNP wanted to lease Ergon and took the issue to the ballot box and lost. But they respected the democratic rights of Queenslanders. The LNP is not the Guilty Party here.
Grosvenor Mine Explosion Inquiry
The Board of Inquiry into the May 6 Grosvenor Mine explosion will hold public hearings from August 4 at the Brisbane Magistrates Court. These hearings will be live-streamed.
As investigations are still continuing, these first public hearings will focus on the role of the Mines Inspectorate.
Information can be submitted to the Inquiry by emailing email@example.com by July 17.
Thanks for Reading
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If You Need Help
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If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to ring and we will do our best for you. (Emerald Office PH 07 4913 1000; Longreach office PH 07 4521 5700.)
Kindest Regards – and keep safe,
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.