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Budget in the red, pressure from Greens leave Trad with the blues

Politics

Treasurer Jackie Trad says the full impact of COVID-19 may not be known until the next state budget. Another great unknown is whether Trad will still be in government to deliver it.

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The budget that Trad had originally brought forward to deliver today was shelved weeks ago, with Treasury unable to have confidence in the rapidly changing estimates of economic activity and state revenue.

The original plan was to generate more business, and stimulate the economy, ahead of a state election due in six months. Since the pandemic, however, that injection of state funds has gone towards saving businesses and buffering the economy.

“We have been able to get out the door half a billion dollars to date,” Trad told InQueensland.

There is growing evidence that the pandemic, and associated restrictions on trade and business, will add up to a hit of more than $10 billion on the Queensland economy and more than $4 billion on the budget itself.

While agriculture and some mining has been resilient, thanks in part to the low Australian dollar, governments are having to support other industries and contend with a staggered resumption of business.

Compounding the challenge for governments is the fact that these economic impacts are also reducing their tax revenue. For example, clubs and casinos remain closed, restricting gaming revenue, while Trad notes that many of the things people are still buying for the home are exempt from GST.

Trad said Queensland being such a decentralised state had helped prevent the spread of coronavirus but also set the scene for a patchy recovery. She conceded in some regions, particularly those reliant on tourism and international education, the outlook was grim.

“The economy is not going to rebound in one month, or two months, or six months,” Trad said.

“Some parts of our economy are going to feel it for a long time.”

Trad agreed that the extent of the crisis may not be clear until plans are due to be made for the 2021-22 budget. She said that even an economic update, in the form of a detailed financial statement or so-called mini budget, would need more up-to-date data.

“In terms of being able to provide an indication, or a realistic illumination, of the economic challenges, we’ve got to wait until the June quarter figures at least,” Trad said.

The Federal Government plans to make a statement on May 12 and deliver a belated budget on October 6.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said the form of Queensland’s update was yet to be decided but “we’ll definitely have something out before the election, that’s my absolute promise to the people of Queensland”.

Palaszczuk awoke to news of a poll that showed her satisfaction ratings had increased, though still lagging behind some other premiers and chief ministers. However, she declined to offer any commentary, insisting her focus was on responding to the ongoing health and economic crisis.

“I’m waking up every day and doing what I can for Queenslanders and frankly that’s what they expect me to do,” Palaszczuk said.

With the Greens announcing they would run the same candidate against Trad in South Brisbane as had threatened her hold on the seat at the last election – and this time benefit from Liberal National Party preferences – the future of the Deputy Premier is unclear.

After a tumultuous term, Trad would not comment on whether she could be, or wanted to be, in a position to deliver the 2021-22 budget for a re-elected Labor government. She said her focus was on saving the jobs of Queenslanders.

“At this stage, it’s very hard for me to see more than a month or two months in advance,” she said.

Palaszczuk added that “Jackie is working really hard in her electorate as well”.

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