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Frecklington seizes on Labor's costings slip, vows no health cuts

Decision 2020

The long-standing efficiency dividend has suddenly become a point of difference between the major parties amid the budget debate.

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In handing down Labor’s policy costings on Monday, Treasurer Cameron Dick confirmed the promised boost in nurses, doctors and other health staff was predicated on Queensland Health being able to meet its two per cent efficiency dividend targets. The timing of capital works was also a factor.

Dick said Queensland Health finding approximately $270 million a year in savings would be “easily done” and not undermine the workforce.

After critical media reports, Dick downplayed the significance of the measure today, saying that when he was health minister the department had been able to meet the targets responsibly and for the benefit of the health system.

But Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington said it showed the Palaszczuk government was unable to manage the health system.

“With the LNP’s costings, there will be no cuts to Queensland Health, there will be no efficiency dividend in Queensland Health like Labor has done,” Frecklington said.

“It is only the LNP that are going to create jobs in the health system. The LNP will be ruling out any efficiency dividends coming out of Queensland Health.”

While that may help the LNP alleviate some of the public concern it would cut services, it also raises the prospect of the LNP having to find another $1 billion to fund its policies.

Dick and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continued their criticism of the LNP for not yet revealing how it would fund some $26 billion in policy commitments, a figure inflated by including the LNP’s vague long-term plans for the Bruce Highway and a New Bradfield Scheme. Most of Labor’s policies will be funded through $4 billion in pre-announced borrowings.

With many votes already cast through prepolls or postals, Palaszczuk said denying Queenslanders the opportunity to make an informed decision was “not fair, it’s not right and it just needs to be sorted out”.

Frecklington said the LNP would release its costings on Thursday – it is customary for the major parties to do so in the final week – and “there will be no forced redundancies, there will be no asset sales”.

But Palaszczuk said “do not be fooled by what they are saying, it is out of the Campbell Newman playbook,” referring to the former LNP government that downsized the public service to help repair the budget.

Labor today promised $10 million to support the hydrogen industry, while the LNP promised a fund to boost manufacturing innovation, as the campaign continued to focus on jobs and economic growth.

Yet both leaders had campaign disruptions as they each grappled with controversial comments from politicians on their end of the political spectrum.

After former Labor premier Peter Beattie called for border restrictions to be lifted for the good of the economy, Palaszczuk was asked repeatedly if she was disappointed by his intervention and repeatedly said “no”.

“It’s just not annoying at all,” Palaszczuk laughed.

Palaszczuk, who will make a decision on the border this week, has vowed to follow the health advice, as has Frecklington, in a departure from her long-running call to open the border.

Frecklington said she would leave Labor to its “internal fights” – she has dealt with similar divisions in the LNP – but, like Beattie, believed Queensland should aim for five per cent unemployment.

“It’s a shame that the Labor Party have no vision, no plan and no ambition,” Frecklington said, referring to Labor not wanting to set an unemployment target.

After former LNP life member and donor Clive Palmer, now with his own political party, warned Labor would introduce a death tax, Frecklington was asked to distance herself from Palmer’s misinformation campaign.

But despite Labor claiming the LNP is aligned with Palmer and other right-wing parties, Frecklington refused to comment on the veracity of his death tax claim – other than to say “Labor have got form when it comes to more taxes”.

“I haven’t concentrated on his campaign at all, it has absolutely nothing to do with me,” Frecklington said.

Palaszczuk and Dick again ruled out a death tax. Frecklington said “Labor’s lies” about the LNP having a secret agenda of cuts and sackings were enough for her to deal with.

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