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Strong Voices At Strong Choices

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Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls ... explaining the three choices that Queensland faces

April 30, 2014

The State Government’s $6 million “Strong Choices” campaign rolled into Kingaroy on Wednesday morning.

The campaign is asking Queenslanders to weigh up the “tough decisions and strong choices” facing a State Government determined to reduce Queensland’s $80 billion debt so it can invest in new infrastructure.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls describes Strong Choices as an Australian first and “unprecedented” public consultation.

The Electrical Trades Union – opposed to asset sales – has described it as a “tour de spin”.

All the action unfolded from 10:00am at the Kingaroy Town Common Hall.

Both sides of the debate arrived in force.

Mr Nichols and his team came to town via government jet; the Electrical Trades Union and Not4Sale campaigners arrived in vans.

And while Mr Nicholls and his dozen Strong Choices workers set up their displays inside in the hall, the unionists set up their placards on the grass outside.

Two policemen kept a discrete eye on proceedings but they needn’t have bothered … nearly everyone seemed to know each other and the loudest catcall was a polite “Enjoy your National Party meeting!”

Inside the hall, just over 40 people gathered to hear the Treasurer speak and then ask him questions.

There was a mix of LNP members – some of whom were even wearing badges – councillors, Stanwell employees, farmers and local small businesspeople.

Attendees had to register beforehand online and pass a security check. This high-tech system, obviously designed to avoid any hint of “trouble”, broke down at the last hurdle when the website issuing tickets failed on Wednesday, telling successful applicants no tickets were available.

Organisers worked around this by emailing attendees individually, telling them to just turn up. Even so, attendees still needed photo ID to get inside …

Treasurer Nicholls covered familiar ground, ie the three choices the State Government faces to pay down debt: Raise Taxes, Cut Services or Sell/Lease Assets.

He then fielded questions from the floor.

It quickly became obvious that asset sales – particularly the recommended sale of Tarong power station – had the local audience worried, even some of the LNP stalwarts.

Mr Nicholls was quick to reassure everyone again that no decision had been made on asset sales, and that no sales would occur before the next State election.

Outside, the ETU was saying something similar.

Spokesman Andrew Irvine said the union wanted to turn the next State Election into a referendum on asset sales.

A few other points from the Forum:

  • Delloitte Access Economics has predicted the Queensland economy will be the strongest growing in the country next year
  • In 2005-06, borrowings paid for 34 per cent of the State Government’s total capital program; in 2011-12 (after Cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods), this had risen to 96 per cent
  • A bright future beckons Queensland as the economy continues to grow but there is a need to invest in infrastructure to cope with a growing and ageing population
  • Queensland assets total $250 billion, including government businesses, hospitals, schools, land and “land under roads”
  • The main income-producing assets are the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC), power generators Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy, the Port of Gladstone and the Port of Townsville, and the industrial assets of Sunwater
  • The assets that had been recommended for sale or lease were Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy, the Ports of Gladstone and Townsville, and the industrial assets of Sunwater
  • Only 25 per cent of Queensland assets produce an income
  • Most of the State Government’s income comes from the Federal Government, not State charges or profits from assets
  • The State Government is not looking at a “fire sale” of assets

The Kingaroy forum was the 23rd Strong Choices campaign meeting to be held across Queensland.

As well as forums like the Kingaroy one, Treasurer Nicholls has also had meetings with selected civic leaders and a “virtual town hall” meeting completed by phone hook-up.

More than 30,000 people have provided their input either via the People’s Budget webtool or via a paper submission – and submissions are still open.

However, Mr Nicholls emphasised Strong Choices was not a poll. The results gathered from all this interaction will be included in the mix of feedback considered by the State Government.

Related articles

Targeting Queensland's power assets ... ETU State Organisers Daniel Bessell, Jason Young and Stuart Traill, media officer Andrew Irvine and Not4Sale organiser Lara Watson

Greens spokesman Grant Newson picketed outside but also came inside to listen to Mr Nicholls

Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington with Treasurer Tim Nicholls and Michelle Smith, from Wondai

Deputy Under Treasurer Alex Beavers with Tony Pantlin, from Kingaroy

South Burnett councillor Ros Heit with Chris Andersen, from Kumbia

The Kingaroy Town Common Hall was filled for the community forum

John Carey, from Stanwell, and KCCI president Rod Steele

Nina Temperton, from South Burnett CTC, with Cr Barry Green

Carolyn Stone (AgForce) with Caroline Harris from 'Bungara' at Ironpot, and Kingaroy businesswoman Anitta Stallwood

Sabrina Coelho, from the Gold Coast, was one of the Strong Choices team helping people complete their "People's Budget" online


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7 Responses to Strong Voices At Strong Choices

  1. Grant Newson

    Well Kingaroy, you have had your token meeting to make you feel good. After listening to the Minister, I certainly have not changed my position on the sale of assets in Queensland. I can guess the State Government won’t change their mind either – fate decided well before these meetings.

    A short-term quick fix by the LNP that will have serious consequences as we continue to offload our limited, income generating, assets to overseas ownership. There are other solutions available, but not one of the “choices” given.

    Several times the issue was raised regarding “What’s in it for the Shire?” .. the answer – Nothing. There will be no immediate return of funds from any sale. Of course, there will be absolutely no benefit from privatisation in both employment numbers or electricity bills. There never has previously with privatisation and won’t happen this time.

    Do NOT let the LNP sell our assets. Sign this online petition

  2. Jack Black

    If Australia’s economy is in dire straits as suggested by this government then nationalisation of the mining coal and gas industry’s is a feasible alternative. All profits from the sale of our minerals coal and gas then can be utilised to pay off debt and fund new infrastructure development to stimulate the economy.These assets are a finite resource with a limited life spend. How we use profits from these assets and who the benefactors are is up to the people of this country. It should be remembered that these resources belong to the people of Australia not any individual or corporation.

  3. Leane

    I went onto the Strong Choices website to have a say about the future of Qld because I, like many others, really care about the future of our State. I was really dismayed about the bias that I saw on the website. It is disgraceful that the government has set this site up targeted to get the answers they want to get. The options they suggested to cut expenditure were obviously not viable options but there was no option for open choices. Of courses we are not going to cut spending in police or health. Queenslanders do not want to sell assets but this website is set up to give you no other choice. What a disgrace. It should be no surprise though. As if this government was ever going to really give Queenlanders a choice in our future. What a crock.

  4. Steve Johnson

    Here’s a Strong Choice neither the Government or the unions want to discuss, but all the rest of us probably should:

    1. Reduce all State Governmrent department budgets and grants by 10%
    2. Freeze all public service pay rises for 3 years
    3. Reduce the size of the public service by a further 10,000 positions

    Result? The $80 billion debt drops to $60 billion (yes, a 25% cut that saves $1 billon a year in interest) with no tax rises, no asset sales and no vuts to any of the programs currently being run.

  5. Wayne Chapman

    If we sell the assets can we offer it to Australians to buy part of shares? If we could break up on sale to 100 parts then someone could buy 1/100 of a share. They can sell it but it still would be Australian.

  6. Rebecca Delacy

    These Assets as Jack Black said belong to the Australian People. I have a Great Idea no pay rise for Politicians for the next twenty years after that period they may learn to listen to the Australian People. Then go on a normal pension like the rest of us. You just do not do a good enough Job one M.P’s husband said there is nothing wrong with The Government, its the People shows what they think of us. Wayne why buy shares when they belong to us now. And what do we have left for the future of our children @ Grandchildren.

  7. Rebecca Delacy

    Sorry just read The Comment From Treasurer Tim Nicholls. Explaining Three Choices for Queensland . Now I Understand its all Physiological when my children were small @ for their safety I would give them three choices, this way they think they have a choice. But in Reality These Three Choices suited me and kept them safe. I Would in no Way try it on my Adult Children I have encouraged them to think for themselves. So in Reality these three Choices suit the Treasurer Tim Nicholls and the Government and we are the Children who have to do as he and The Government want. RESULT NO CHOICE.