Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fact and Fiction: My Five Cents Worth

It’s not that I can’t balance a cheque book, it’s that I can’t be bothered balancing a cheque book. I have a pretty accurate idea of where I’m at financially, day to day, month to month, and when I need to double check my mental arithmetic, I can handle online banking with the best of them.

Having said that, I don’t think I’d like to be trying to manage the debt that is, if you believe the tabloids, forcing Queensland to stagger. In just eight years, Queensland’s public debt – that owned by the state – has more than quadrupled, and is expected to hit about $90billion by the time our new LNP State Treasurer Tim Nicholls hands down his first budget in a couple of months’ time.

With a $90billion dollar debit to juggle, I’m really pleased to see that Premier Campbell Newman and Ros Bates, his brand new Minister for Science, IT, Innovation and Arts have decided to save the $240,000 earmarked for the Premier’s Literary Awards by cancelling the grant. There’s no doubt that Queensland’s writers are feeling good about being able to discharge 0.00027% of the state’s debt.

The scrapping of the Literary Awards has sparked a vibrant debate around Queensland, taking us right to the heart of philosophical issues like the role of the arts in society versus the responsibility of government. Who knew that the readers of the Courier Mail would be ready to delve into discussions about such lofty topics. (There's a selection at the end of this blog; please add your own comments below.)
The thing about public debt is that it makes little sense to most people. How many of us can relate to numbers in the millions or billions. Let’s work with the numbers we already have and say that Queensland owes $90 billion dollars. If we divide that by today’s population, estimated to be 4,638,827, it comes out at $19,401.46 per Queenslander.
 So, we each owe the equivalent of a fairly modest new car.

So that’s a number that means something, but it’s still not relevant because we’re not going to be billed $19,401.46 each. The state has many sources of income, and some of those will ultimately come back to you and me in the form of increased taxes and tolls.

So as consumers, residents of Queensland, we really don’t know what all these numbers mean to our standards of living, or what that standard of living is going to cost us. We do know that the decision to end the Premier’s Literary Awards is saving each one of us in Queensland about five cents. Each.

I hope my five cents is being spent on something worthwhile.

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