The Queensland government is to provide additional funding to the Opposition. Announcing half a million dollars worth of salary support, the Premier, Peter Beattie, said "democracy is improved if a government is constantly challenged and scrutinised by an effective opposition".
The Queensland Labor government holds 66 of the 89 seats in the single chamber parliament. The National Party has 11, whilst the Liberal Party has 3. There are 9 One Nation and independent members. Under parliamentary rules, the Liberal Party lacks official party status, which means it misses out on additional salaries and access to staff, cars, etc.
In recent weeks the National and Liberal parties have struck a coalition agreement. The National Party governed in coalition with the Liberals between for 2 years between 1957-89 and for two years between 1996-98. For 19 years between 1968-87, the premiership was held by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
This is the text of a media statement by the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie.
Extra $500,000 To Make Coalition Opposition More Effective
Premier Peter Beattie has awarded the newly-formed Coalition of National and Liberal Parties an extra $500,000 to help it become a more effective Opposition.
"Democracy is improved if a government is constantly challenged and scrutinised by an effective opposition," said Mr Beattie.
"The new Coalition is much smaller than the one that operated in 1996-98 and there are arguments that funding for an opposition should be linked to actual representation in parliament.
"I may be criticised for spending more taxpayers' money on politicians but I have always made it clear that Queensland and our system of government is best served by an opposition that is properly funded.
"When the last Budget was drawn up, the National Party nominated itself as the official Opposition, with the three Liberals operating independently and not qualifying for funding as a recognised Parliamentary party.
"Total funding for the two parties in the 2002-03 Budget was $1,867,000.
"I was planning to give them an increase in the next Budget to give them a total of $1,910,000 but this extra $500,000, which Cabinet gave a "tick" to this morning, will now give the Opposition a total of $2,410,000.
"An increase of more than 25% is obviously a substantial increase and comes in addition to a "top-up" I gave in this year's mid-year Budget review process of $64,000.
"I have asked Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg to give me his recommendations on how the extra $500,000 should be allocated between more staff, resources and materials.
"And I have reminded him that in addition to these arrangements, Coalition Members of Parliament now have the services of an assistant electorate officer which was not the case in the last Coalition.
"The Coalition has also asked for an additional $23,387 in salary for Liberal Leader Bob Quinn to bring his pay up to the level of the leader of a recognised party. The Parliament of Queensland Act would have to be amended and I am asking Mr Springborg on whether he supports such an amendment."