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LNP would borrow, trim public service growth to fund $5.1 billion promises

Decision 2020

Would-be treasurer Tim Mander has announced plans to save $1.61 billion by leaving public service vacancies unfilled.

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Delivering the Liberal National Party’s long-awaited policy costings today, Mander said a Frecklington government would carry less debt and stimulate more economic growth than Labor.

The LNP would use $1.7 billion of the $4 billion in additional borrowings that Treasurer Cameron Dick has already initiated, even though the LNP has previously disparaged it as an “election slush fund”. Most of Labor’s promises have been funded through that borrowing.

Explaining the LNP’s reliance on Labor debt, Mander today said “well, the money is there”.

“The announcement was made in September so it may as well have been in the budget if they’d had a budget,” Mander said.

“Our guarantee is the debt will be $2.3 billion less than what Labor debt would be.”

Labor has continually warned of tens of thousands of public servants having to be sacked by an LNP government to meet an apparent $26 billion in election promises and achieve a budget surplus in its first term.

But the LNP’s costings outline only $5.05 billion worth of promises in the forward estimates, with Mander as vague as Dick about the longer term outlook for the Queensland budget or economy. He continued to criticise “Labor lies” about the LNP’s plans.

The LNP would extend an existing “internal replacement” program in the public service by six months, effectively allowing natural attrition to slow public service growth, with non-frontline workers having to cover for those who leave non-frontline positions. That would allow for larger ongoing savings.

Mander would not say how many public service departures, or vacancies left unfilled, would be required to deliver the $1.61 billion in savings. He was even reluctant to confirm it would slow public service growth.

“What we’re focussing on is what the end result will be,” Mander said.

“There will be 240,000 in four years’ time, that’s around seven and a half thousand extra than there are at the moment.”

Mander reiterated the surplus pledge was only a target, and he could not be certain when it would be achieved, just as the LNP’s five per cent unemployment target might rely on long-term building programs.

There was little funding set aside for those programs – namely the New Bradfield Scheme ($20 million) and the Bruce Highway upgrade ($480 million) – which Mander suggested was a prudent approach to planning.

The LNP would continue the Palaszczuk Government’s two per cent efficiency dividend, but not in Queensland Health, where Labor is dependent on savings to deliver its promise of thousands of additional health staff. Mander also said those savings would not come directly from staff.

Mander was keen to allay concerns of mass sackings, saying there would no forced redundancies and the definition of ‘frontline’ workers warranting additional protection would be expanded. Nonetheless, Labor and the unions have already seized on the uncertainty over future positions under an LNP government.

While Mander ruled out asset sales, a procurement plan would save $700 million over four years, prison services would open to private sector involvement, and a ramped-up fine recovery program would be outsourced.

Mander said the LNP was also relying on unspent allocations in existing government funds, which he was confident were correct, but he was generally skeptical about the state of government finances under Labor.

“I have no confidence in Labor when it comes to the figures and the finances, they’ve proven that in the past,” Mander said, leaving open the option of an audit or review if the LNP took power.

“It will be a challenging exercise but I’m up for it and looking forward to the opportunity.”

Labor and the LNP have vowed to prioritise a budget if elected.

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