2019-20 Queensland Budget Delivered

The 2019-20 Queensland Budget was handed down on Tuesday 11 June by Treasurer Jackie Trad.

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 Jackie Trad is banking on a growing economy and increasing revenue to offset a steep and ongoing rise in government debt.

Delivering her second State Budget yesterday, Ms Trad forecast a rise in debt to $82.9 billion in 2022-23. Commentators note, however, that a new accounting method has enabled the Palaszczuk government to redefine state debt and that it will actually rise to more than $90 billion in 2022-23.

The state’s debt is due in large part to a massive and growing public service wages bill; in 2019-20, that bill will reach $25.4 billion.

While a special unit in the Premier’s office will pursue government spending cuts of $200 million next financial year and $500 million annually from 2020-21, there will be no public service redundancies.

Payroll tax relief for small and medium businesses will be in part paid for by a tax hike for larger employers.

New royalty arrangements will see the LNG sector paying more. The 25 per cent increase in royalties has the LNG industry, and the mining sector more broadly, casting doubts on the willingness of foreign investors to risk further capital in the state.

There will be a higher land tax on foreign nationals, and on companies and trusts owning non-farming land.

Obviously concerned about the anti-Labor vote in regional Queensland at the 18 May federal election, Labor is directing a significant proportion of its infrastructure spend outside of the South East.

The budget delivers an operating surplus of $841 million in 2018-19, thanks largely to mining royalties.

State economic growth is forecast to slow to 2.75 per cent in 2018-19, strengthening to three per cent in 2019-20.

With economic growth likely to be sluggish, the Treasurer’s optimistic belief that no explicit debt reduction strategy is necessary is probably misplaced.

Health and Hospitals

The 2019-20 Queensland budget includes record spending on health of $19.2 billion, up by $929 million on the previous year.

Funding of $956.9 million over four years will support Queensland Government’s Building Better Hospitals Program. The program will help address growing demand by enhancing public hospital capacity and services in the South East Queensland growth corridor and includes projects at three major South East Queensland hospitals:

  • expansion of the Caboolture Hospital to increase its capacity by 130 beds;
  • expansion of the Logan Hospital to deliver an additional 206 beds as well as expansion and refurbishment of the Logan maternity ward; and
  • staged redevelopment of the Ipswich Hospital including new mental health facilities for adults and older persons and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite to grow clinical capacity.

Funding of $78.6 million will support the Enhancing Regional Hospitals program which will include upgrades/redevelopments at Gladstone and Roma hospitals.

As part of the Rural and Regional Infrastructure Package, funding of $40.7 million will support projects including the construction of a new community hospital in Blackall and redevelopments of the Sarina and Kingaroy Hospitals, Townsville Hospital’s Clinical Services and Maryborough Emergency Department and Specialist Outpatient Department.

Funding of $1.4 million will enable the upgrade of the Redland Hospital, to provide additional Emergency Department beds and birthing facilities.

$116.8 million over two years from 2021–22 and $59.3 million annually from 2023–24 will continue the nurse navigators program. Nurse navigators ensure patients with chronic illnesses find the most appropriate care and help coordinate clinical services and reduce preventable hospital admissions.

$30.7 million over two years from 2021–22 and $15.5 million annually from 2023–24 will enable the employment of an additional 100 midwives to support maternity services across Queensland.

Funding of $16 million over three years will enable the purchase of a new MRI machine and a computerised tomography (CT) scanner at Redcliffe Hospital.

Increased funding of $77.4 million in 2020–21 will ensure the extension of the Specialist Outpatient Long Wait Strategy. This Strategy will ensure patients continue to have timely access to specialist outpatients’ appointments.

Mental Health

Funding of $80.1 million over four years will support a range of initiatives to better support suicide prevention under the Shifting Minds Suicide Prevention Flagship. These include increased investment in community mental health services, the establishment of the Way Back initiative to provide follow-up support after a suicide attempt, and a $6.9 million investment in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth mental health and wellbeing program.

While this funding is to be welcomed as an alternative to hospital emergency departments, the Queensland Mental Health Alliance has stated that at least ten community mental health services will have their funding cut.

With regard to mental health related infrastructure, funding of $27.9 million will enable the completion of a new Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre at The Prince Charles Hospital, two new Youth Adolescent Step Up Step Down units in Logan and Caboolture, and the refurbishment of two adolescent Day Program Spaces at Logan and the Gold Coast.

Disability Services

The Queensland Government will provide funding of $62.7 million over four years to continue state services for people with disability, including the maintenance of quality and safeguards, continuity of support for clients ineligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and addressing the increased workload and demand pressures related to the rollout of the NDIS. A further $61.9 million over two years has been provided as a temporary measure to ensure clients can access critical supports while interface issues between the NDIS and mainstream services are resolved.

Funding of $20.9 million over four years will support a grant program to ensure the sustainability of Queensland’s wheelchair accessible taxi fleet through the replacement of aged vehicles and the conversion of some conventional vehicles to wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Aged Care

The budget includes investment in a number of programs aimed at preventing elder abuse. Funding of $3.5 million has been allocated for Seniors Legal and Support Services across the state. The Government will also continue to support UnitingCare’s Elder Abuse Prevention Unit, including its Helpline.

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