Doubt over wages debt claim

A WAR of semantics has broken out between the Queensland LNP government, the ALP and what may or may not have been said by financial expert Dr Doug McTaggart, currently heading the Queensland Investment Commission.

Answered questions in front of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission recently, Dr McTaggart was reported to have stated, under oath, that the Queensland Government was not borrowing money to pay public servants' wages.

Opposition treasury spokesman Curtis Pitt used the reported comments to level attacks against Treasurer Tim Nicholls and Premier Campbell Newman, who have long used this line - borrowing to pay wages - to justify its wide-ranging public service cuts.

Mr Pitt, who was not at the meeting and had not seen the transcript, described Dr McTaggart's words as "devastating", saying they cast doubt on all budgetary claims from the government.

"Under questioning by the Together union while under oath in the QIRC, Dr McTaggart made it clear he disputed the claim and said it was not substantiated anywhere in the Costello audit report," Mr Pitt said.

But when Parliament sat later in the day, Premier Newman tabled a letter delivered to him on Wednesday morning from Dr McTaggart.

Mr Newman read parts of the letter, in which Dr McTaggart said he stood by the audit's findings that the government was borrowing far too much, that costs had to be cut.

Because so much of the government's spending was on staff, Mr Newman said the government's claims it was borrowing to pay staff was accurate.

Premier Newman too confirmed in Parliament that he was yet to see the transcript.Just 24 hours earlier, the government announced more than 2000 cuts to transport and building workers across the state in the name of addressing the state's grim financial situation.

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