Treasurer Curtis Pitt has ruled out a sneaky LNP plan to outsource the main debt collection functions carried out by the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER).
Mr Pitt said the LNP plan would have seen potentially lucrative debt collection functions hived off to private sector contractors, while leaving all the bad debt to government.
“The previous LNP government was proceeding with a sneaky plan to outsource large parts of SPER’s debt collection, despite not having a mandate,” he said.
“They even set aside more than $25 million of public money to pursue their plan and tried to sell it as a ‘reform’, promising to be ‘flexible’ about how they dealt with debt.
“Tim Nicholls and the LNP were clearly fattening up SPER for outsourcing in what was effectively another LNP privatisation-by-stealth.”
Mr Pitt said the Palaszczuk Government would not be proceeding with the LNP’s SPER outsourcing plan.
“Tim Nicholls dipped his toe in the water but Queenslanders still don’t know what the belly flop would have looked like if SPER was privatised as he clearly intended,” he said.
“Would bounty hunters have started to appear at the doorsteps of those who didn’t pay their Gateway Bridge toll?
“I shudder to think about the possibilities the LNP had in store when it came to private debt collection.
“We’re just not going to expose taxpayers to the unnecessary risk the LNP wanted them to bear – instead we’ll examine ways to get SPER back on a more sustainable footing.
“This may include an enhanced suite of ICT capabilities to tackle the increased debt load which has risen exponentially under the LNP’s watch.”
Mr Pitt said the marked increase in SPER debt was the result of the Newman government’s decision to automatically refer all toll road fines to SPER in its last budget.
“In the first eight months of the 2014-15 financial year there was $92.3 million in tolling debt registered with SPER, which is more than triple the 2013-14 levels,” he said.
“This was part of an orchestrated campaign by Tim Nicholls and Jarrod Belijie to fatten up SPER in a deal that reeked of their disastrous Strong Choices asset sales plan.
“They were only interested in the dollar signs for their private sector mates when they should have been worrying about how much their sneaky plan would cost taxpayers.
“The worst part of it all is that the LNP wanted to saddle taxpayers with largely unrecoverable debt, which the State would have kept on its books.”
Mr Pitt said SPER debt would continue on its present trajectory unless the government tackled the LNP’s litany of policy failures.
“SPER debt is projected to hit $1 billion this year, so it’s crucial that we develop a more efficient and sustainable way of collecting that debt,” he said.
“We need to get SPER working for Queensland taxpayers, not against them, without going down the road to outsourcing like the LNP.”