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Dick gets tick for fewer clicks amid changes to fiscal savings mix

Politics

Treasurer Cameron Dick was forced to abandon a health efficiency drive under political pressure. But he successfully closed down 101 social media accounts.

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Dick has rewritten the State’s fiscal principles, one of which will now be to ensure that average growth in general government expenditure in the medium term is below the average annual growth in general government revenue.

Having previously vowed to achieve $3 billion in savings over four years, it was a challenge for Dick to identify ways to save money, without being accused of cutting services and jobs like the Liberal National Party. He has provided more of a buffer by not lifting stamp duty thresholds but additional efficiency measures were limited.

The LNP has hammered the government over a planned $500 million in additional Hospital and Health Service efficiencies, to the point where Dick had no option but to drop them.

Yet the Budget still proclaims $750 million in savings in 2020-21 alone, from reducing 101 social media accounts across government, not filling 33 vacancies in the Senior Executive Service, and renegotiating lease and telecommunications contracts. There was limited detail in the budget papers.

“A further $750 million will be realised in 2021-22 through a combination of savings already realised and agency savings,” the papers state.

“Savings from the Health and Education portfolios will be managed through existing funding model arrangements.”

Outside parliament, the Treasurer confirmed the public service hiring freeze for non-essential positions would remain, and be a year-by-year proposition. Rather than declare it a key savings measure, Dick suggested it kept the focus on frontline jobs.

He would not be drawn on what other levers he had available to reduce expenditure, or whether the standard rate of efficiency dividend could increase in future.

That is despite vowing to keep a “weather eye” on changing economic conditions to ensure the budget position did not deteriorate.

In question time today, the Opposition asked the government how it came to find an additional $3.8 billion in value in the Queensland Titles Registry, and whether the proceeds used to establish dedicated health, social housing and other funds would deliver much money.

LNP frontbencher Jarrod Bleijie accused Dick of misleading parliament last month when he referred to the previously stated value of the registry.

But Dick said, as of the end of May, he only had the previous valuation, not the one used in the budget. He reiterated the process was endorsed by several legal and accounting firms.

“I knew the valuation was being revised as part of the budget and I told the parliament this,” Dick said, suggesting the biggest change in the budget occurred only in recent weeks.

The government was repeatedly asked why the new dedicated funds are forecast to deliver so little to their portfolios. Minister Craig Crawford sought to explain it by referring to students having Dollarmite accounts, and benefitting from the interest.

His comments come despite the government recently moving to scrap Dollarmite banking due to the lack of value and risks to young people.

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