2020-21 Queensland State Budget Delivered

The 2020-21 Queensland state budget was handed down on Tuesday 1 December 2020 by Queensland Treasurer the Hon. Cameron Dick MP.

OTA has prepared a summary of those budget measures most relevant to occupational therapists. Click on the links below to skip to the sections of most interest to you.

The Bottom Line

Queensland Treasurer, Cameron Dick has brought down a budget notable for substantial and ongoing borrowing, due in part to a $12.3 billion fall in revenue attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comprises a fall of $4.5 billion in forecast tax revenue, a drop of $3.8 billion in GST, and a $4 billion plunge in mining royalties compared with the December fiscal update last year.

In 2020-21, the deficit will peak at $8.6 billion, compared with the $313 million surplus forecast last year. The deficits are forecast to decrease in size thereafter, with a deficit of $1.4 billion predicted in 2023-24.

The Queensland economy is forecast to return to growth in 2020-21, but at a rate far lower than the pre-COVID forecast of 2.75 per cent in 2020-21. Gross state product growth is forecast to significantly improve next financial year, reaching 3.5 per cent.

It appears likely that the state’s unemployment rate has already peaked in quarterly terms, at 7.9 per cent in the September quarter. It is forecast to improve steadily, falling to 6.5 per cent by June 2024. 

Citing the COVID-19 crisis and the need for additional health staff, the Palaszczuk Government has continued its longstanding practice of increasing the size of the public service. Since 2015, the public service has grown by 16.6 per cent, compared with an 8.2 per cent in population growth. While this should translate into enhanced service delivery, it comes at a huge cost to the budget – $26.47 billion in this financial year.

Partly as a result of this expenditure, by 2023-24 Queensland’s net debt will reach nearly $140 billion. Significantly, however, Queensland retains a substantial proportion of assets in public ownership, whereas the two larger states have privatised much of theirs. Retaining these assets ensures a flow of revenue to government coffers and, to an extent, offsets debt.

While the Palaszczuk Government promised during the recent election campaign to borrow only an additional $4 billion, the budget reveals an additional $32 billion in debt.

Despite expectations to the contrary, it appears Queensland has avoided a credit downgrade by the major rating agencies.

Notable expenditure in the budget includes $56 billion over four years on infrastructure and capital works, including $1.5 billion to continue construction of the state’s largest public project – the Cross River Rail Tunnel.

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Health and Hospitals

The 2020-21 Queensland budget includes total health funding of $21.8 billion in this financial year. This is up by $2.6 billion on the previous year.

The budget provides funding of $265 million to build seven satellite hospitals that will deliver alternative models of care across South East Queensland, with facilities planned for Bribie Island, Caboolture, Redlands, Pine Rivers/Hills District, Ipswich, Brisbane southside and the southern Gold Coast. 

There is funding for additional frontline staff including 5800 nurses, 1500 doctors and 1700 allied health professionals through to 2024.

There is a $1.6 billion investment in infrastructure projects for Queensland health and hospital facilities, including an investment of $979 million in the Building Better Hospitals Program, and $77.4 million in 2020-21 to expand access to specialist outpatient services.

Other key infrastructure investments include:

  • $86.2 million to redevelop Nambour Hospital;
  • $50.5 million to upgrade parking at Redland Hospital;
  • $45.5 million towards a Princess Alexandra Hospital cladding project;
  • $36.8 million to upgrade parking at Redcliffe Hospital;
  • $70 million for a Cairns Hospital mental health unit;
  • $46 million for a Thursday Island health facility upgrade; and
  • $55.8 million for a series of infrastructure projects to improve Queensland Ambulance Service operational facilities.

The 2020-21 budget also commits $171 million to a Queensland Health palliative care strategy funding package through to 2025-26, and $5 million over two years for the delivery of allied health and wellbeing facilities at the Clem Jones Centre in Brisbane.

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Regional Health

The Government will continue to fund the establishment of the Office of Rural and Remote Health in 2020-21.

Mental Health

The Palaszczuk Government will continue to deliver the Shifting Minds Suicide Prevention Flagship, with $61.9 million in funding provided for initiatives including a Crisis System Reform project to enhance crisis service delivery.

As part of the Government’s $1.6 billion investment in infrastructure, $70 million will go towards a Cairns Hospital mental health unit.

Funding has also been allocated for a 40-bed mental health unit at Gold Coast University Hospital and mental health facilities at Rockhampton Hospital.

Disability Services

Last year, the Queensland Government committed $62.7 million over four years to ensure continued service delivery and support for people with disability. This year’s budget commits additional funding of $2.6 million in 2020-21 to continue the provision of these services, including the funding of All Abilities Queensland, the management of complaints and investigations, the delivery of guide, hearing and assistance dogs, and National Disability Insurance Scheme performance monitoring.

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Housing and Social Services

Spending of $241 million has been allocated in 2020-21 to improve housing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the state, including $18 million to support home ownership opportunities and $21.8 million to progress new housing across 17 local councils.

The Queensland Government has committed to implementing historic legislation to enable legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practices. The legislation will help remove barriers to participation in important areas such as education, health and housing.

There is continued investment to support households through utility bill relief, with a further $100 million being provided to households from September 2020 to reduce electricity bills through the Government’s $50 asset ownership dividend payment.  

Spending of $10 million over four years will support veterans, including employment assistance, infrastructure funding, legal aid, homelessness support and a range of other services.

Spending of $166.6 million will enable continued implementation of reforms to the Supporting Families Changing Futures program, aiming to build proactive family support systems.

Funding of an additional $6 million over four years will be provided to support the prevention of domestic and family violence in vulnerable populations.

Aged Care

The budget includes funding of $5 million for programs to raise awareness, and assist victims, of elder abuse.

Education

Spending of $17.5 billion for education and training in 2020-21 will continue to support Queensland’s students and teachers to meet enrolment demands and changing learning environments.

Of the Government’s $21.8 billion investment in health, $100 million over three years has been committed to employ 464 additional wellbeing professionals in Queensland state schools and to trial the placement of general practitioners in up to 20 schools.

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