Coal boost to Qld coffers won’t dent debt

QLD Treasurer Jackie Trad says the state will have a $524 million operating surplus in 2018-19.Queensland will post operating surpluses in the next few years off the back of increased coal royalties, but the black gold won’t be used to pay down the state’s overall debt, set to top $83 billion over the same period.

Treasurer Jackie Trad released the Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Review on Thursday, showing the state will have a $524 million operating surplus in 2018-19.

That’s up from the $148 million surplus predicted in the June state budget, with the state’s coffers buoyed in part by an increase in coal royalties, up from $3.5 billion in June to $4.3 billion on Thursday.

Meanwhile the state’s overall debt is predicted to hit $83.5 billion by 2020-21, a slight increase on previous projections.

Ms Trad said the state’s debt level was manageable and in line with other n states.

“Our debt levels are about building the infrastructure that Queensland needs,” Ms Trad said.

“We just had the Victorian government go to an election promising to fund their infrastructure spends by doubling their levels of debt. In NSW we have a government borrowing $13 billion over the next four years alone to build infrastructure.”

Queensland is spending 2.5 per cent of its total economic output for 2018-19 on infrastructure, with that figure set to rise to 2.9 per cent in 2019-20.

Despite the state’s coffers being boosted by coal royalties, the treasurer played down the importance of the sector to the state’s bottom line.

“I’m looking forward to the continued diversification of our economy,” she said.

Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said without coal royalties the budget would have been in the red this year and for the foreseeable future.

“The Queensland (coal) industry is not only employing over 300,000 Queenslanders, it’s not only supporting small businesses, but it’s paying the wages of teachers, doctors, nurses and police,” Mr Macfarlane said.

That money for wages will come in handy, with the MYFER figures also showing the public sector wage bill has increased by $925 million since the June budget.

LNP Shadow Treasurer Tim Mander accused the government of abandoning its plan to pay down debt and manage its spending.

“It’s totally alarming that despite record royalties, the debt is still going out,” Mr Mander said.

“These royalties won’t be there forever, so it’s important we invest them in job producing infrastructure.”

The state’s unemployment rate remained steady at 6.25 per cent, currently the worst rate of any state or territory in , with employment growth steady on 1.5 per cent.

The state government also unveiled a $70 million Build to Rent scheme as part of MYFER, to deliver affordable rental properties in Brisbane’s inner-city by partnering with the private sector.

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