The Queensland treasurer says criticism of the state government’s plan to lease assets, by a leading economics professor, are more of a challenge to the opposition than his own plans.
University of Queensland professor of economics John Quiggin has released a review of the Newman government’s so-called “Strong Choices” plan, which will lease some state assets for 99 years in a bid to battle the state’s debt.
Mr Quiggin says the plan will have an adverse financial effect and lead to a cumulative loss of approximately $9 billion by 2020.
In the paper, entitled “Strong Choices or Weak Arguments?”, Prof Quiggin states the 99-year leases are practically the same as selling off an asset and that Queensland’s financial problems are tied to its taxation system.
“Unfortunately, successive Queensland governments have maintained the fiction that we can be a low-tax state while still providing the same public services and high-quality infrastructure as other states,” he wrote.
“Until this delusion is abandoned, we will experience financial difficulties whenever government revenue experiences one of its regular cyclical declines, as is happening at present.”
Treasurer Tim Nicholls was on the Gold Coast on Monday to announce a $74 million infrastructure development at a notorious exit of the Pacific Motorway in the city’s north.
Mr Nicholls said Prof Quiggin concedes the core issue of the government’s argument, that turning Queensland’s finances around involves either cutting services, increasing taxes or selling or leasing public assets.
“What he is effectively saying is that there needs to be a massive increase in taxes if his policy prescription is going to get underway. We don’t think that’s the right option for Queensland,” Mr Nicholls said.
He said it would be impossible to gather state funds for projects such as the planned upgrades in Coomera that were unveiled on Monday without a plan and the Queensland Labor Party was yet to provide one of their own to voters.
Mr Nicholls said the professor’s statement actually challenges Labor “to say how they would fund things like exit 54. What is their plan?
“We’re now seven days into an election campaign, we haven’t seen an economic plan from the Labor opposition nor have we seen the detail of their costings. What are they hiding from Queenslanders?”