Bud­get to shift $ 4b in debt

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - STEVEN WARDILL

MORE than $ 4 bil­lion in debt will be shifted on to the bal­ance sheets of Queens­land’s state- owned energy com­pa­nies in a bid to re­duce the Gov­ern­ment’s an­nual in­ter­est bill.

The Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment has been forced to re­write plans to use the prof­its of energy com­pa­nies to re­pay debt amid ex­pec­ta­tions fu­ture div­i­dends will dry up.

In­stead, $ 4.1 bil­lion of debt in­curred by the state will be trans­ferred to power dis­trib­u­tors Pow­er­link, En­ergex and Er­gon Energy and gen­er­a­tors Stan­well and CS Energy.

The plan, to be un­veiled by Trea­surer Curtis Pitt in next week’s State Bud­get, will cut $ 600 mil­lion from the state’s in­ter­est bill over four years.

Queens­land Trea­sury rec­om­mended the debt- re­duc­tion strat­egy as part of a re­view of state fi­nances or­dered by the Gov­ern­ment af­ter La­bor’s elec­tion vic­tory.

Mr Pitt yesterday

in­sisted the energy com­pa­nies had debt to rev­enue ra­tios of about 55 per cent, well be­low their pri­vate sec­tor con­tem­po­raries.

“The in­dus­try stan­dard is around 80 per cent,’’ he said.

“It could be ar­gued that they were left at that lower gear­ing ra­tio be­cause ( the New­man gov­ern­ment) was try­ing to present them with lower debt lev­els for sale.”

To­tal gov­ern­ment debt, in­clud­ing money owed by its busi­nesses, is forecast to hit $ 80 bil­lion this year.

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