Senator Stoker: The Queensland government released their budget today. Because I was raised to find the good in everything, I want to express in my chamber how pleased I am to see the Queensland Labor government come to the party and deliver on a commitment to match the federal government's funding of $3.5 million for the establishment of a Holocaust museum in Brisbane.
I had the pleasure of announcing the federal contribution to that on behalf of Ministers Tehan and Frydenberg a few months ago. It's great to see the state government come on board in circumstances where both the federal government and the Brisbane City Council team, led by Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, are already such great supporters of this important project. It will educate young Queenslanders in particular about this important and tragic chapter of history and help make sure that something so horrific never happens again. But I'm sorry to say that that's where the good news in the Queensland budget stops.
Around four weeks ago Queensland had an election—an election that Queenslanders were asked to go to without the benefit of seeing the budget that had been due a few months earlier from Queensland Labor. During that election campaign, the Queensland Labor government promised that it would borrow $4 billion, on top of its existing $102 billion worth of state debt, and that was all that would be required to fund their spending promises and operational commitments. You'd expect that figure to be accurate; they have access to all the departmental data and Treasury modelling that are necessary to try to get that pretty close to right. Well, we're now four weeks down the road, and that promise has not even lasted for that period.
Senator Scarr: How much is it?
Senator Stoker: The extra $4 billion that they promised to borrow in the name of every Queenslander has not blown out twofold and it hasn't blown out threefold—
Senator Scarr: Fourfold? Fivefold?
Senator Stoker: Senator Scarr, it has not blown out fourfold. Would you believe that it has blown out sevenfold? Sevenfold!
Senator Scarr: Which is $28 billion!
Senator Stoker: Yes, $28 billion—not the $4 billion promised just four weeks ago, knowing all of the complications of COVID and the impact that was having on the economy, particularly in light of border closures. No, it took just four weeks and the most important of their promises were broken and out the window.
But perhaps the worst part of knowing they're borrowing against the future of your children and my children is knowing that they're not even borrowing to fund anything that lasts. They're not borrowing to build the great infrastructure that will set up the economic recovery of Queensland for the next 50 years. They're not borrowing to build great water projects that will sustain agriculture. They're not borrowing to invest in the growth of regional Queensland, to help it to reach its potential. No, they're borrowing to pay a public service which has ballooned by 40,000 people since 2015 without delivering any measurable improvement in service delivery. Indeed, you would be horrified to know, Mr Acting Deputy President Griff, that some departments, like the department of the environment, are more cantankerous and ineffective than they've ever been! The public service wage bill in Queensland will now top $26 billion a year. Let that sink in for a moment.
Queensland Labor have even now abandoned the self-imposed constraint they once announced of capping public service job growth to population growth. Do you remember that promise, Senator Scarr? I remember that promise.
Senator Scarr: One of many.
Senator Stoker: One of many promises abandoned, broken, left behind. Maybe their union bosses told them to do otherwise. Maybe they just gave up on any charade of fiscal responsibility. But it begs an important question: if we have so many public servants—and I tell you that is one statistic on which Queensland leads the country—why do we still fork out so much for consultants?
I assure you that that too is a record Queensland is breaking. The Department of the Premier and Cabinet alone spent over $5.5 million on consultants last year. They've borrowed to pay for millions of dollars worth of taxpayer funded pre-election propaganda. They have borrowed to pay for more ministers and assistant ministers than ever before.
Senator Scarr: Do they have anyone who isn't a minister or assistant minister?
Senator Stoker: I don't think so. I think everyone gets a prize in this government. It's a bit like going to a fair with your children: every child gets a prize. And perhaps the most horrific part is that they are overseeing the least productive executive in Queensland's history. Let that sink in for a moment. By every possible measure—economic output, unemployment rate, state GDP—this is the least productive executive in Queensland's history. The parliament barely sits, assistant ministers have empty diaries, and estimates has been reduced to a sideshow.
Senator Scarr: No upper house.
Senator Stoker: Maybe that's what they need; I'd be a fan of that. Queensland Labor have not aspired in any way to use this record borrowing to return Queensland to the top of the national economic ladder as is their duty, as Queenslanders expect them to. New South Wales are forecasting unemployment of 5.25 per cent in 2024. Queensland Labor? They are happy for us to keep running last in the country. They've set an underwhelming target of 6.5 per cent. In 2021-22, New South Wales will see revenue growth of 6.7 per cent. The Queensland government is happy to aspire to 4.7 per cent. The only growth we are assured of in Queensland is in the operating deficit. Queenslanders can count on that growing—not by 10 per cent, not by 20 per cent. By how much do you think it will grow by, Senator Scarr?
Senator Scarr: Twenty five?
Senator Stoker: The operating deficit will grow by 50 per cent in 2021-22. It is a succession of great disappointments. Queensland Labor flatly refused to release a budget before the election. We Queenslanders now know why. They went to the election promising to borrow $4 billion and to spend that just on jobs and infrastructure. Well, today we have found out what they were really about. They will borrow seven times that amount—$28 million—not for more jobs, not for more roads, not for more schools, not for more dams but just to keep the lights on. I think that is the saddest part of their addiction to waste, their largesse and the economic ineptitude that characterises everything we have come to know and depend upon day in, day out from Queensland Labor.