On 17 June 2016, The Honourable Curtis Pitt MP, Treasurer, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Minister for Sport, spoke at the QCOSS State Budget Breakfast about the impact of the 2016-17 Queensland State Budget on vulnerable Queenslanders and community service organisations.


I want to acknowledge that we meet on the land of Aboriginal people and pay my respects to elders past and present. We are very fortunate in this country to have two of the world's oldest continuing living cultures in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whose lands, winds and borders we all now share. There are a few other people I'd like to acknowledge today, I want to acknowledge the Honourable Mark Bailey, Mark good to see you, I want to acknowledge the Honourable Coralee O'Rourke, the Honourable Shannon Fentiman. And in doing so, acknowledging Shannon, I just want to also highlight something which is something we're very proud of in this government, and that is that this is the first budget, Women's Budget Statement we've had in 20 years. And I put a lot of that down to the hard work that Shannon has been doing in that portfolio, last time we saw one of these statements was when Joan Sheldon was the treasurer, and you know obviously women are going to be better treasurers than blokes anyway, and it was the reason why we saw all of that information as to what is happening around government being brought together. So in acknowledging Shannon I also want to acknowledge the great work that she's been doing in that part of the portfolio.

For a little over 50 years, QCOSS has been the most significant voice for social change in this State. I believe that the collective of what happens with QCOSS is something very powerful, and I look around the room and see a lot of people from various community organisations, non government service providers, people who are advocates and I know that the work that QCOSS does really is representative of the collective work that is trying to be undertaken. so thank you for the crucial role that QCOSS, its board and all of the people involved make in the community sector here in Queensland.

As you've heard, on Tuesday I handed down the Palaszczuk government's second budget. This budget is one that I think we can all be very very proud of. There is no doubt that our government is one that is committed to developing and supporting our communities. We have increased the budget this year for the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services to $3.2 billion. That is an 8.8 per cent increase on last year. Out of a $53 billion budget, we're providing $4.9 billion in concessions. We're doing what we can to help with the cost of living. And we certainly have retained our commitment to continue to cover the shortfall for concessions affected by what has been a very long process dealing with the Federal Government, in terms of the National Partnership agreement on pensioner concessions.

Our three "I"s of growing innovation, attracting investment and building infrastructure, are all aimed at creating jobs now and also jobs in the future. And that's really what's important when we start talking about how we've applied our funding in terms of infrastructure and our job creation program. And that's because we've got a very strong focus again on regional Queensland. We have a one hundred million dollar regional back to work program, which we hope will support around 8000 jobs in our regions. If you're an employer, we're going to give you up to $10,000 if you hire and keep a regional Queenslander employed for 12 months. If you hire a long-term unemployed person, we'll be upping that to $15,000, and we're going to have a strong focus on ensuring people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, young people and mature aged workforce people will be able to come through our programs and we'll be giving a very strong emphasis on ensuring that they get the best outcomes.

But what we have of course got to do is look at the fact that we have a reality, we have lower demand for the resources that we produce, and we get lower prices for them as well. And that means royalties are going to be lower than forecast. We have been very clear last week when we talked about the fact that we're experiencing $4.7 billion of write downs across the forward estimates, since last budget. So what is important though is what you do in response to those situations, and what your priorities are, and that's what we're here today to talk about. We have put a significant priority on the community sector, on delivering with our non government partners to ensure that vulnerable Queenslanders and Queenslanders who need our support are getting that support from the government, and that is what people expect.

So I want to take some time to talk about some of the initiatives in the budget, initiatives that are having a real impact on families. This is a budget that delivers for health. We have record funding of $15.3 billion, a 4.3 per cent increase. $230 million for advancing Queensland's health infrastructure program, that includes money for repurposing the Nambour hospital, of course there are other hospitals in regional Queensland, including Atherton, as well as Thursday Island. There's another $167 million to prepare the Sunshine Coast University hospital for opening in April next year.

It is a budget that delivers for education, with record funding of $12.9 billion, a 5.9 per cent increase. We have a new State School building program with almost $250 million over the next four years, to increase the base capital works program and also to meet growing demand. And we of course have also put in place a school maintenance fund at last year's budget, we've topped that up with an additional $94.7 million so that we can ensure that we have the sorts of facilities that our kids need to grow and prosper.

We made sure that we are continuing to cut the cost of living for Queenslanders. You would have heard announcements made on the weekend about our cheaper fares for public transport. Right now, anyone who catches public transport realises there is a maze of zones, there's 23 zones, we're scrapping those from January next year and bringing them down to just eight zones. A lot easier to remember, but importantly what it's going to mean is lower fare across all zones, and as part of this process we've considered how we can help families, and we've got all kids under 15 with a go card travelling for free on weekends, and we have new concessions of course for jobseekers on Newstart, as well as asylum seekers. We need to make things as easy as possible for people to get where they need to go, whether it's to get to training, to get to their medical appointment, particularly for pensioners, we have to ensure that we are giving as many of those opportunities as we can, and the government is doing what we can to assist. This is a significant initiative for residents in South-East Queensland, for those people like me who don't live in South-East Queensland, we're also maintaining the fare structure and freezing across the State over that time as well, because we know that while the patronage is a little less in regional Queensland, we recognise that people sometimes have no other option except to catch public transport, and that means a lot to them, as I say, when they're trying to get themselves prepared for work, or in fact if they're able to secure a new job.

Now a very important thing to I think everyone in our community, and I know obviously everyone in this room, and that is what our budget is doing to address, and continue to respond, to the Not Now, Not Ever report when it comes to battling the scourge in our community of domestic and family violence. We've increased funding in this budget by almost $200 million. We've had great success with the new specialist domestic violence court at Southport and we've put more than $40 million in new funding to roll out those courts across Queensland. We're putting more money and resources towards supporting victims of domestic and family violence, and we're building two new shelter for women and children escaping domestic and family violence.

The government is partnering with Good Shepherd Microfinance to open Good Money shops at the Gold Coast and in Cairns. Now they provide small, zero-interest loans to people who basically need life's essentials. It is a safer alternative than high-interest payday lenders, and it's part of the $25 million financial resilience plan that we announced in last year's budget. This program is now being redesigned and enhanced,  that's going to mean including new counselling positions, to continue emergency relief and further financial literacy initiatives. Now just a point on that, I think people's financial literacy should never be understated. I mean I'm doing a budget this week, and handing down a budget, it's not a household budget it's a $53 billion budget, but the point is, understanding your incomings and outgoings, of course, understanding how you can make the best use of that, is still critical. And I do think that if we particularly have that focus in schools and ensuring that young people have that financial literacy, it will help them make those decisions they need to help them become better adults in the future. But everyone in our community can use that support, budgeting support, and then we can get a real idea about how we can best help as government and service providers in the community sector.

The support that we provide our communities of course includes the state-wide roll out of the National Disability Insurance scheme which starts from 1 July, and this is eventually going to support around 90,000 Queenslanders with a disability. Last month we also legislated the commencement of the National Injury Insurance Scheme for Queensland. This scheme provides access to lifetime care and support for all Queenslanders who are catastrophically injured in road accidents. I'm sure Minister Bailey would agree, as the Minister for Road Safety, that the best thing we can do is prevent people from having those catastrophic accidents in the first place, and it's an ongoing work of our government, but for those people who are catastrophically injured on our roads, there is now a complete no-fault scheme which allows all people to have the care and support that they deserve, as a result. They'll no longer have to prove that it was someone else's fault. This week, of course, the government introduced legislation to extend this scheme to people who are catastrophically injured at work, and that's going to be a similar debate in the parliament, but one that I have doubt will have the support of all members of the parliament.

Before I conclude today I just wanted to give you all and update on one of the most important social initiatives that we introduced at last year's budget, and that's Social Benefit Bonds. Social Benefit Bonds are our government's response to tackling some of the really challenging social issues, and it has been suggested to me that was this a case of the government putting up the white flag, we can no longer deal with these particularly challenging issues, and I don't think that's the case at all because I'm here today with a room full of people who are absolutely passionate and dedicated to delivering and dealing with complex social issues to support vulnerable Queenslanders. But we think we need to try new and innovative ways to tackle these things, and this is about attracting private investors to support these complimentary services to the ones that all of you are already delivering.

These bonds are basically an agreed social outcome, and no outcome, if no outcome is achieved, we actually don't pay the people who have made the investment. There is a financial incentive to deliver it, but in the process we hope that we get an excellent outcome and we cut through and find new and diverse ways of delivering. We think though a differential will be there for people in the community participating in the pilot services. We announced the pilots in three areas, in homelessness, in reoffending, and also in improving Indigenous outcomes. Earlier this year we called for formal expressions of interest, we received 23 submissions, we've re evaluated, evaluated, going out to a market sounding exercise, request for proposals - all of that process has been undertaken. So we anticipate that out of this process we will see the first social benefit bonds operating by next year. This is a faster timeframe than some other jurisdictions have been able to implement, it's probably because we've been able to benefit from other jurisdictions putting their toe in the water first and seeing what worked and what hasn't.

This is something I'm very passionate about because, look not just as treasurer, because there may be cost savings to government to have more money to deliver across more services, but it is something, if we do it right, we'll completely revolutionise the way that we deliver services, as a government, and as a non government sector, increasing those partnership opportunities, and I think in the outcomes are going to be those that are only financially paid for when they're met, and those agreed outcomes are going to be quite tough. We think that there's a good outcome here for the taxpayer, but particularly for the people who'll be receiving the services.

Can I just in summing up say that this has been a budget framed in difficult times, but as I always say budgets are about people making choices, and it's about your priorities. We think the budget builds on our strength, we think the budget shows that we're a government that has a heart. And we know that we've got to continue to support vulnerable Queenslanders who don't want hand outs, they just want a hand up. If we can continue to have that as our focus, and ensure that we continue to engage with QCOSS and with all of our non government providers to tell us how we're going with our mission of working hard on behalf of all Queenslanders, we think that we're going to be able to continue to deliver good outcomes for you. Thank you very much for having me today, I understand I'll be answering some questions, so I look forward to hearing from you as well. 

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