Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls. Dave Hunt

Tim Nicholls responds to Strong Choices critics

AT ALMOST $15,000 per person, Queensland's per capita debt is the largest of all Australian states.

Unlike Victoria and New South Wales we lost our AAA credit rating years ago, meaning we pay even more interest on the $80 billion debt the state holds.

The interest bill on this debt is $4 billion each and every year and it comes at a real cost to the state - because it means less money can be spent in core service delivery areas like health, transport and education.

Columnist Mark Furler seems not to focus on that stark debt reality in his wandering discourse on the government's Strong Choices discussion with Queenslanders.

Our government is determined to reduce the state's debt, and the resultant interest bill, because we know that in a growing state like Queensland with an ageing population as well as an increasing number of school-aged students, the demand for government services is going to continue to grow.

This will involve some Strong Choices because there are only three broad categories of options available to state governments that must reduce debt.

The Strong Choices website shows Queenslanders the broad policy responsibilities of government.

Our aim is to explain why we must reduce debt and involve Queenslanders in the government's decision making.

These Strong Choices are being faced by governments across Australia, including at a federal level, and Queensland is not immune from falling revenue and increasing demand for services.

The choices may all seem unpalatable, and as a government we'd rather not have to consider them, but inaction will cost this generation and the next very dearly.

That's why the government is making a concerted effort to listen to the input from Queenslanders across the state. It's an unprecedented consultation effort for an unprecedented debt problem.

Governments are often criticised for the supposed lack of consultation in decision making, and equally there is criticism when we do consult through processes such as the Strong Choices campaign.

Regardless of those criticisms, the government is determined to engage Queenslanders in a discussion on the Strong Choices ahead of us all to deal with the state's accumulated debt and fund infrastructure into the future.

The fact that commentators like Mr Furler are out there contributing to the debate is proof of this.

Apart from the website, which has so far received more than 20,000 submissions, I have also been out travelling the state listening to the views of ordinary Queenslanders.

I can assure you the views of those in rural and regional areas will not be lost in this process, thanks in part to the support of APN newspapers and I'd encourage anyone who wants to have their say to do so below.

Tim Nicholls

Treasurer and Minister for Trade


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