Kevin Bates
QTU President

QTU President's comment : 14 June 2016

Queensland state budget 2016-17: a solid effort

The 2016-17 state budget released today maintains a positive focus on education in both schools and TAFE and promotes the importance of our industry to the Queensland community and economy.

The 2016-17 state budget will deliver $12.9billion for the Education and Training portfolio. This is a $500million increase from 2015-16, but it again means that education spending as a proportion of the total budget remains static.

As with the first budget of the Palaszczuk government, election commitments from 2015 are front and centre for this second effort.

Key election commitments that are fully funded include:

  •  875 extra teachers above growth over three years = 290 extra teachers above growth in 2016-17;
  • 45 additional Guidance Officers in secondary schools over three years = 15 additional secondary Guidance Officers in 2016-17;
  • $102million over 4 years for implementation of the outcomes of the Review of School Administrative and Support Staff (a part of “Letting Teachers Teach”);
  • Additional teachers required for growth in enrolments; and
  • A total of 970 teachers and 213 teacher-aide positions will be added in this budget.

Importantly, the budget calculations also include an allocation for the cost of our enterprise bargaining agreement which is currently being negotiated.

In the area of infrastructure, today’s budget makes a big dent in the needs of schools for maintenance and of high-growth communities for new schools.

Highlights of the infrastructure budget for education include:

  • $667million for infrastructure in 2016-17
  • $475million for capital works
    • Four new primary schools in high growth areas have been added to the capital works program – Burdell (Townsville), Coomera, Caloundra South and Yarrabilba (Logan)
    • Allocation of $21.4million for the completion of the Cairns Special School
    • Two new high schools at Calliope ($60 million) and North-West Townsville by 2020
  • Ongoing budget commitments for school maintenance have been enhanced with a total of $192million dedicated to school maintenance in 2016-17 (inclusive of the $79.1million per annum recurrent allocation)

The budget reveals that the total cost of implementation of the new senior secondary assessment and tertiary entrance system is expected to be $72.4million with $24.3million invested in 2016-17 to fund trials of the new assessment processes, the redevelopment of curriculum documents and the provision of professional development to senior teachers and curriculum leaders.

Budget allocations for TAFE and VET are still being analysed but the headlines indicate that the government’s commitment to TAFE as a strong public training provider will be realised through:

  • $60million has been invested in the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program;
  • $10million in extra funding for the Certificate 3 guarantee; and
  • The second year of the $34million in funding from the “rescuing TAFE” election commitment will be delivered in full.

The budget is not all smooth sailing however. The Queensland government proposes to “repatriate” $4billion from the current surplus in the QSuper Defined Benefit scheme. $2billion is to be used to retire state debt and $2billion will be spent on infrastructure. The Treasurer reports that actuarial advice suggests that up to $5billion could be reclaimed from the defined benefit fund allocations without impacting on the scheme which remains fully funded and guaranteed by law. The QTU notes that the government has taken a conservative approach to “repatriating” money but we will call-out any actions by the state that would jeopardise this unique feature of the QSuper defined benefit scheme. The government must ensure that all benefits remain guaranteed until the last member of the fund has retired.

The Department of Education and Training is required to identify an efficiency dividend of about $20million from within current resources. The Education Minister, Kate Jones, has provided assurances that school personnel and resources will not be impacted in any way. It is expected that cost savings will be limited to Central Office and Regional Office. The QTU will monitor this budget measure to ensure that schools are not negatively impacted by any cost savings initiatives.

Finally, the upcoming federal election will have an impact on the long term issues for education, be it positive or negative, and this budget may yet be further tested by the outcome of the ballot on July 2. The solid foundations of this budget will be sorely tested if the election outcome denies all Australians access to the Gonski school funding reforms that are already making such a difference in schools across Queensland.

Further analysis of the state budget will be undertaken over the next few days and updated information provided by Newsflash and on the QTU website.

Kevin Bates