Qld govt risks future debt burden: auditor

·2-min read

The Queensland government is risking unduly burdening future generations with debt and its budget is facing major headwinds from COVID-19 and trade tensions, the auditor-general has warned.

Auditor-General Brendan Worrall handed down his report into the state's finances for 2020 on Thursday.

The 2020/21 budget unveiled the Palaszczuk government's plans to run deficits for the next three years and plunge into almost $130 billion worth of debt.

It said another $17 billion would be borrowed before July this year to stimulate the economy amid falling revenue with the deficit to hit $8.6 billion in 2020/21.

Mr Worrall says the government's borrowings would prevent it from meeting its own debt-to-revenue target in the short to medium term.

He warns that prioritising economic stimulus over getting the budget back in the black could be risky.

"Over the long term, the state must be able to fund its operations and a significant portion of its capital program from the revenue it earns," the auditor-general wrote.

"This is to ensure that a burden of debt is not unduly placed on future generations without the benefit of supporting assets and the services they provide."

Mr Worrall also warned that the government's financial performance was facing major headwinds from the pandemic and ongoing trade tensions, particularly with China.

The government has already spent billions on COVID-19 stimulus, while royalties from coal, metals, petroleum and gas slumped by 14 per cent, or $720 million, in 2019/20.

"Further (virus) outbreaks could require the Queensland government to introduce new stimulus measures not currently budgeted for or expand on those included in the budget," Mr Worrall wrote.

"In addition, risks arising from ongoing international geopolitical and trade tensions may impact on the state's revenue and key exports."

The auditor-general also advised the government to file its consolidated financial statements earlier after a delay saw them filed after the October 31 state election last year.

The state government only has to file statements within six months of the end of the financial year, but Mr Worrall said that rule was unsuited to election years when polling day is October 31.

"Information in the financial statements becomes less relevant to readers the further away it is from the end of the financial year," Mr Worrall wrote.

"In 2020, it also meant information on the Queensland government's financial performance and position was not publicly available prior to the state election."

The auditor-general said there should be a set date prior to the October 31 elections for filing financial statements for the Queensland government, the consolidated fund, ministerial expenses, and the office of the leader of the opposition.