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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 70

Senator JONES —Has the attention of the Minister for Finance been drawn to the level of bankruptcies in the State of Queensland? Is it a fact that under the stewardship of the resigning Premier of Queensland, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, there was a rise of some 29 per cent in the number of bankruptcies between the six months to December 1985 and the six months to December last year?

Senator WALSH —I understand that it is a fact that bankruptcies for the second six months of 1986 were 29 per cent higher than they had been for the second six months of 1985. Indeed, in those two years Queensland accounted for 45 per cent of the increase in bankruptcies in the country. That reflects the general sickness of the Queensland economy and is indicated by such economic realities as the fact that Queensland has the second highest unemployment rate in Australia, the highest on the mainland, even though it pays the lowest wages. So that is an interesting paradox for those who believe that the only thing one needs to do to cure unemployment is to pay lower wages. Queensland already has the lowest wages in the country and the second highest unemployment rate. It has the highest level of per capita public debt of any State, and it is accelerating at a faster rate than any State other than Tasmania. That is the reality behind the rhetoric that comes out of the perpetually open mouth of the Queensland Premier. Queensland has the highest rate of Public Service growth of any government in Australia-so much for small government.

Moreover, in the 1985-86 financial year in terms of the total public sector deficit per capita, and it is not the same thing as a Budget deficit, Queensland had the highest increase in per capita debt of any mainland State-a figure of $666 per head compared with New South Wales which, as it so happens, was the lowest at $330. Queensland was beaten in the rate of debt accumulation per capita only by that other bastion of free enterprise, presided over by a Liberal government-Tasmania. Tasmania accumulated public debt in that year to the extent of $844 per capita compared with $666 in Queensland. The real problem in Queensland ultimately, unless something is done to change the direction or practice of government in that State, is not the bankruptcy of private business, but the bankruptcy of the State.