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Price of power: Strange case of COVID, an election and our $45m cabinet

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Taxpayers were forced to pay more to support the Premier and her Cabinet ministers last year, when the pandemic hit and Queensland went into a state of emergency.

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A report tabled in State Parliament today showed ministerial office expenses in 2020-2021 came to $45,193,449 – with just over $8 million of that for the office of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk alone.

Normally, the total is just over $43 million, and the Premier’s office just over $7 million, but Palaszczuk blamed the increase on the election campaign.

“The report shows higher charter costs and domestic travel due to increased travel for official purposes during the period of the election, as is the case every election year,” Palaszczuk told parliament today.

Apart from such travel, afforded to the major party leaders, campaigns are largely funded by the parties and candidates themselves. Labor has passed amendments that will see restrictions on donations, and more taxpayer funding, for future campaigns.

Yet staff still make up the bulk of ministerial office expenses – and last year the Premier’s office paid out half a million dollars more than it did the year before.

The concentration of power in government ranks is further demonstrated by comparing the cost of supporting the Premier to other ministers. The Labor frontbenchers who carried the health portfolio during the period, Steven Miles and Yvette D’Ath, did not even manage half the level of expenditure as their leader.

The cost of running the Office of the Leader of the Opposition was just $3,992,516 in 2020-2021, according to a report tabled by incumbent David Crisafulli today. That was also higher than the previous year, even though the Liberal National Party complained of parliament being restricted for long periods in 2020.

The expenses were made public on a day when the parliamentary precinct was placed into lockdown because of protesters, some opposed to the government’s pandemic response, others to plans for Voluntary Assisted Dying laws.

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