Last week in the Federal Government budget it was announced (without prior advice to the State’s and Territory’s) that the National Partnership Agreement providing financial concessions to pensioners and seniors was being axed. In the Queensland (Qld) State Budget handed down on 3 June it was announced that as a consequence there would be reduced concessions and rebates for older Queenslanders. This would severely disadvantage pensioners and seniors (including me and mine) as all are facing rising costs for electricity, gas, water, rates, vehicle registration, insurance plus transport. The concessions are a much needed aid in retirement.
After two days of bad press via talk back radio and print media the Liberal National Party (LNP) reinstated the full suite of concessions for pensioners and seniors. This is a great win for the “grey army” who were determined not to sit by and accept their fate.
What about all the money going to support the “Safe Night Out” strategy? In case you are not aware of this strategy it is about addressing alcohol and drug-related violence in Queensland’s night spots. The answer apparently is in more police and stronger penalties for people and licensees who are not abiding by the liquor laws. Unfortunately, this will not stop people from drinking excessively and then engaging in anti-social behaviour. There are people in prison, people who are law abiding citizens prior to becoming inebriated, as a result of a fun night out. I am neither a teatotaler nor a policy maker however the simplest way to reduce alcohol and drug-related violence is to start with reducing the opening hours of venues. There are plenty of venues across the world that close their doors at midnight. There is always the option of going home to party on – how novel!
As a community we need to get “back to basics”, that is, back to what is important to live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. Our finances therefore need to be focused on health, education and training, housing and feeding people, creating jobs, and support for the most vulnerable. The amount of money that governments spend on people “having a good time” is exorbitant. You just have to look at sporting venues to get the picture. No wonder many children get bored at home these days as they don’t have any role models to show them how to be self-reliant and creative to enjoy life.
It is true that the financial status of Qld is in a bad way. The debt and deficit has been increasing since the year 2000. In 2009 under the Bligh Labor Government Qld lost its triple A (AAA) credit rating. It joined Tasmania as the only two States in Australia to be in this position.
Not being an economist I asked myself the question about the difference between deficit and debt. The deficit is the difference between what the government takes in revenue in any single year and what they spend. Debt is accumulated deficits over a number of years. Queensland’s debt is set to climb to $79.956 billion in 2014/15 and then to $82.07 billion in 2017/18. There is a long way to go to balance the budget! In the meantime, the State lives on borrowed money and borrowed time. The LNP Government in their budget comments are of the view that the State should reach a surplus of $862 million in 2015/16. Keep in mind there is still the debt. It is true that the State is in difficult circumstances financially and tough decisions have to be made. This is where privatisation, selling or leasing of government owned assets comes in to cut the debt. If this goes ahead it is predicted that the debt will be reduced from $80 billion to $55 billion thereby reducing interest payments from $4 billion a year to $2.7 billion so that Qld can line up to reclaim its AAA credit rating.
The LNP Government has stated that this Budget is a Strong Plan for a Brighter Future. This may be so for some Queensland but until the back flip yesterday, it was a bleak outlook for pensioners and seniors in Queensland. I congratulate all those older Queenslanders who voiced their view and forced the Qld government to do a back flip. This was all happening while I was attending to a broken washing machine and doing my knitting. More about that later!