STATE Treasurer Andrew Fraser this morning criticised the Gold Coast City Council and its handling of the Allconnex water debacle.

Fraser (pictured), speaking at a Central Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce business breakfast, spoke out against council’s record water profits, expected this year to be around $94 million.

Yesterday, Premier Anna Bligh faced protests on the subject while visiting the city.

“There’s a clear capacity for the Gold Coast City Council to act here, and certainly people like Councillor Sarroff have pointed out the sort of profits that Gold Coast City Council expects to receive,” says Fraser.

“What happens in Moreton Bay is they return those profits as a rebate to ratepayers, and certainly if it’s good enough for the Moreton Bay regional council you’d have to think its good enough for the Gold Coast.”

Despite expressing disappointment with GCCC’s operating practices, Fraser reiterated that the State Government has little power over council charges and profits.

“The reality for the Gold Coast’s destiny is that it’s in the hands of Gold Coast residents. You don’t have to be a political scientist to accept the fact that many people have a view about the Gold Coast City Council,” he says.

“I don’t think I’d rate the Gold Coast City Council as one of the best councils to deal with in Queensland to be honest about it, but it’s not up to me to decided whether they should have a job or not, it’s about everyone in this room.

“Everyone on the Gold Coast has the chance to do something about it in March next year.”

After last week apologising to Mayor Ron Clarke for his outspoken criticism of council, councillor Eddie Sarroff says GCCC has ‘eroded its relationship with the State’.

“The unfortunate situation is that there is a lot of differing opinions. The mayor has a viewpoint that in many cases I don’t support,” says Sarroff.

“My concern is that we have eroded our relationship with the State with this debate that’s been raging on water and on many other fronts. The city is better served when elected representatives ensure that they put the interest of the city ahead and avoid the conflicts that have been going on.

“You can’t on one hand be lobbying the State Government for more funding for much needed infrastructure support for the city, and then have the other hand poking them in the eye.”

Fraser however affirmed the State Government’s commitment to projects including the Gold Coast University Hospital, Rapid Transit Project and Carrara Stadium.

Economic outlook

January’s natural disasters dropped Queensland’s economic growth rate from 3.75 per cent down to about 1 per cent, and the Treasurer says the state ‘is about to go on an economic rollercoaster’.

“The forecast for the economy is about to be as wild as the forecast for the weather has been,” he says.

“The growth rate for next financial year looks like being 5 – 5.25 per cent. So we’re going to go from one per cent this financial year which is nothing to write home about, to the sort of rate we saw many years ago.

“At the start of the year the discussion is going to be about businesses constraining and about job losses in key sectors as a result of the floods.

“But by the end of the year we’re going to be in a position where the discussion will about skills shortages and a tighter labour market. It’s important to emphasise that that’s the type of trajectory that we’ll see.

“There’s a lot of lofting activity that will flow through and that’s really going to require businesses to know and understand that sort of operating environment.”

Locally, Fraser expects the high dollar to continue wreaking havoc on the tourism sector.

“We need to understand that the tourism demand equation, because of the rising Aussie dollar is going to be a continuing challenge for the Gold Coast; reliant as it is on inbound tourism,” he says.

“We’re going to see swings and roundabouts; a ten-speed economy across Queensland and different speeds within different parts of the region. The challenges for tourism are there but I think other parts of Queensland will see a much better 12 months."

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