The Sunday Mail Editorial is calling for a new Queensland Treasurer to be appointed to replace Jackie Trad, who has had to temporarily stand aside during a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into her conduct, this time relating to the appointment of a high school principal.* This is the right call from the Sunday Mail. Premier Palaszczuk has enough to deal with right now in overseeing the state’s coronavirus response and participating in National Cabinet, without having to take on the immensely complex Treasury portfolio, too.
Whoever the new Queensland Treasurer is, he or she should start planning for the release of a budget update immediately. It was reasonable for the Government to abandon its plan to release the budget in late April given the radical uncertainty associated with coronavirus. But it is unreasonable not to produce a budget before the election to be held on 31 October, which the Opposition Leader has alleged is the Government’s intention (see Qld Premier ‘drunk on power’ for not handing down budget: Opposition Leader).
As we start to lift restrictions and the economic damage becomes clearer, the Treasury should be in a position to produce reasonable budget estimates and publish them, even if just in a mini-budget or budget update rather than a full set of budget papers. Indeed, no doubt the Treasury has its own up-to-date, internal-use estimates of the operating and fiscal budget balances which a new state Treasurer could consider releasing immediately, with a cautionary message about how unreliable the estimates are at this time of crisis, of course.
Longer-term, Queensland may need to consider greater oversight of our elected governments. One option, which I discussed in my 2018 book Beautiful One Day, Broke the Next, is the restoration of Queensland upper house. In Chapter 10, I wrote:
The lack of a Queensland upper house has arguably led to poorer governance ever since its abolition, as it entrenched the power of the government winning election to the lower house…One may conjecture that, to some extent, the poor governance outcomes experienced in Queensland in recent decades, including corrupt government ministers and officials, and multiple crises in the provision of utilities and public services, may be related to the lack of an upper house of review.
Of course, an upper house means more politicians and who wants that, so some type of citizens panel or jury, as Nicholas Gruen has been advocating for, may be a better option. Check out Nicholas’s Mandarin article:
Whatever the mechanism, we need much greater oversight of our state government than we currently have.
*Update: The Courier-Mail is reporting Jackie Trad has resigned and Cameron Dick has been appointed the new Queensland Treasurer.