A Twitter incident from last Wednesday last week reveals a few interesting things about the Queensland state government and modern politics overall.
I'm regularly on-air with Steve Austin at 5:30 pm on Brisbane ABC radio each Wednesday discussing state politics with Rachel Nolan. If you've ever listened in you'll know it is a pretty freewheeling conversation and both of us are called on to express opinions on a wide range of subjects.
If you listen to last week's episode around 2:14 you'll hear me unload on Scott Morrison's financial profligacy in reacting to COVID-19 ($800 billion in additional debt by 2030 according to the Parliamentary Budget Office). I follow this up by riffing on Victoria's debt, announced in their state budget.
I'd glossed a news report and got the Victorian figure more or less right at $156 billion in 2024, but didn't realise it was net debt, rather than gross debt. I compared it to Queensland's gross debt of around $118 billion in 2024 (according to our report produced during the election).
For some reason best known to himself, three hours later, on a parliamentary sitting day, Cameron Dick, State Treasurer, decided to tweet, calling me out for quoting net debt against gross debt. He pointed out the gross Victorian figure was $196 billion and quoted Queensland's as $102 billion.
This made Queensland's position look even better, which was fine by me because my point was that Victoria had jumped the shark, and while Queensland was bad, it was nothing like Victoria. So he drew attention to his own poor debt position for no rhetorical advantage
But it gets worse for Dick. If you're going to be pedantic, and have the whole resources of treasury behind you, then you should make sure you haven't made any mistakes yourself. The Victorian figure is for 2024, but the figure Dick quoted for Queensland is this year's – a case of comparing lemons against limes, which I was happy to point out.
Unlike Dick, I had a 2024 Queensland debt figure because after he had refused to provide one during the election we at the Australian Institute for Progress commissioned Gene Tunny and Joe Branigan to work it out for him, which we released as "Queensland Budget Update Report".
This minor skirmish tells us a lot about this government.
It is obsessed with intimidating critics, to the point that it will criticise a critic even when it means revealing its own shortcomings. Despite having a huge number of staff, most aren't competent.
(Perhaps this is because it does have a huge staff: too many with too little to do lured into manufacturing work like encouraging their boss to tweet when he has nothing substantive to say, or perhaps grabbing the password to the social media account and doing it themselves).
There is also a lot of misdirection going on here. By arguing about debt, and comparing it to other states, it deflects commentators from other aspects of the budget.
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