Treasurer admits 'difficult' budget ahead for Qld

Queensland's 2024 budget will be "difficult", with state debt expected to grow to $188 billion in four years, the treasurer says.

Cameron Dick has outlined the government's forward estimates with preliminary forecasts suggesting that by the 2027-2028 financial year Queensland's net debt could reach $73 billion.

Gross general government debt that financial year could reach $128 billion and when combined with borrowings, total debt could reach $188 billion.

The state budget was effectively in balance when Mr Dick provided his mid-year review in December on the back of a $4.3 billion surplus in 2021/22 and a record $13.9 billion surplus in 2022/23. 

That was on the back of coal royalties supporting Queensland's post-pandemic boom which had been forecast to boost revenue by $9.4 billion over five years.

Additional royalties from coal have pumped around $5.8 billion into the economy since being adopted in July 2022.

But government coffers are set to take a hit over the next four-year electoral term, with the price of steelmaking coal falling 25 per cent and Queensland copping a reduction in GST from the federal coffers.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick.
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick says state debt is expected to grow to $188 billion in four years.

"The next state budget will be difficult," the treasurer told parliament on Wednesday.

"On a proportional basis, these preliminary forecasts are consistent with the debt levels we were forecasting in 2020. 

"At its greatest, total debt remains about one third the size of Queensland's economy."

The government outlined $8.224 billion in cost-of-living concessions in last year's budget and Mr Dick indicated the government would continue to deliver further relief when the June budget is handed down. 

Free kindergarten for families began in 2024 and registration fees for motor vehicles will be frozen for 12 months from July.

The government has also provided $1.483 billion in electricity rebates this financial year, with most households receiving $550 towards their energy bills and vulnerable households receiving $700.

"There will be energy rebates in the budget and we are looking to put together the biggest cost-of-living relief package that any Queensland government has ever delivered, we remain absolutely committed to that," Mr Dick said.

A pile of bills in Brisbane
The treasurer has committed to continue energy rebates in the budget to help struggling households.

The treasurer also declared a willingness to go further into deficit if it means keeping Queensland families and households in surplus.

He also ruled out cuts to public service jobs as a means of tightening the budget belt. 

But the government's four-year big build infrastructure program has increased from $89 billion to $96 billion, as per the mid-year budget review. 

Mr Dick says the government will use forecasted debt to deliver infrastructure, reduce inflation and increase productivity in the economy. 

Pointing to the financial positions of other eastern states, Mr Dick said Queensland's forecasted debt is manageable when compared to NSW and Victoria.

"We are streets ahead of them even on the new debt figures," he said.

"But I want to be up front, these are the forecasts I've received and I want to be clear with the people of Queensland that we will continue to support them."

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