Tuesday June 27, 2017
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Newmania: Queensland's NDIS And Budget Surplus Locked Into Deathly Embrace

What the Newman Regime bought us for Christmas but we'd rather have a NDIS, thanks.

Fresh from his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) 'commitment with caveat', a grim-faced Tim Nicholls, fronted the media on Wednesday to deliver the mid year budget review. The rookie Queensland Treasurer, just three months into his first 'austerity' budget which saw thousands of public servants put out of work, announced a $2.3 billion reduction in revenue.

A huge $1.4 billion drop in state mining royalties over 4 years is expected. The Newman Government had raised royalties sharply in an effort to capture income from the mining boom, much to the warnings of the mining sector. As with most Newman Government decisions, there had been no consultation with the industry.

There was also another impact of this. The formula used to calculate GST distribution from the Federal Government factors in the rate at which a State sets its royalties. The higher you set your royalties, the less the Federal Government needs to give you in GST revenue, funds are allocated to other states. With a drop in mining commodity prices, the double whammy of Newman's royalty hike is destined to hit home.

In other sobering news, Queensland's economic growth is predicted to drop from 4% to 3.75%, employment growth to fall from 0.75% to 0.25% and unemployment will rise to 6.25%. Signs of a shrinking economy.

The state's operating budget deficit is set to deteriorate from the $6.3 billion predicted in the September budget to $6.7 billion, the worst in history. Overall the state's deficit will rise from $10.8 billion to $11.2 billion.

Nicholls is, however, pressing on with his quest to deliver a surplus budget assuring us that it will arrive with the 2014-15. He's ruled out higher taxes and more job cuts. It must be in the back of his mind though and we know the Newman Government are acrobatic masters of the political 'backflip'.

In contrast, suffering the same sorts of falls in revenue, the Federal Treasurer Wayne Swann abandoned the Australian Government's pledge to deliver it's own surplus budget. The reality of dramatic cuts and rises in taxes would be the only way to achieve it. Most economists agree it was a silly political move on Canberra's part and one that did not have sound economic footing at this point in time.

By Friday, Nicholls was all smiles as he and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney announced the contract for the development of 1 William Street (currently an open car park in Brisbane's CBD) had been awarded to Cbus Property. The 43-storey building will cost $653 million to build and will house the public service and Queensland Government. (On social media its been dubbed 'Campbell Newman Towers' or CNT).

Nicholls assured us that it wouldn't cost us 'a cent to build the building'. The catch being a 99 year lease to Cbus Property with a guarantee that the Queensland Government will occupy the building for the first 15 years. We're paying for it in prime leasing arrangements, the details of which have not been disclosed to the public. The Government will still retain the ownership of the land but that may change in the future as Nicholls hinted at asset sales as an election issue for 2015.

Nicholls went on to explain that by consolidating all of the public service into one building it would save $60 million. The old Parliamentary Executive Building is currently 100% owned by the State and is now scheduled to be demolished to make way for a casino. This decision takes us from a rent free arrangement to a prime leasing one.

What does this all have to do with Queensland's NDIS? The previous week the Newman Government announced it would set money aside starting in 2014-15 budget for people with disabilities ready to join the scheme by 2018. There was a caveat; only if the budget was in surplus.

The Queensland plan for NDIS is now inexorably linked to the State's economic factors; mining, royalties, revenue drops, unemployment, GST allotment and economic growth. Once again, the Newman Government has managed to reduce people with disabilities and their carers to pure economic terms.

In the finale to the year, Newman responded to all of the 2012 NDIS outcry. After all of our visits to his office, the petitions, letters and reports in the media, he stated he would write to his disability minister Tracy Davis to see what could be done about Queensland's current disability system.

Exasperating. We've now come full circle.

Once again Newman demonstrated he had not read and understood the Productivity Commission's NDIS report. Perhaps it's been tossed unread into a draw somewhere. I'd love to know the current whereabouts of his copy.

Free from economic constraints, Newman's tower will charge ahead. In contrast, Queensland's NDIS is far from certain, locked into a deathly embrace with Nicholls' surplus budget. Within months work will begin on the CNT and, if we allow him to return to office, by 2016 the King will be settled into his grand new castle. Meanwhile, we will still be waiting out beyond the castle moat, a further 2 years before NDIS takes shape on Queensland soil.

Ultimately, the tower will become an icon of the Newman Government's self interested politics, built on the martyrdom of the public servants it will one day house, there for all to see, in this election and the next.


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