Fact check: LNP says Labor is cutting RFS funding - is it?
THIS week, two months before the State Election and six months after fierce bushfires, the LNP accused the Labor Party of crippling rural fire brigades by reducing their funding.
That claim was attached to campaigns by Queensland politicians, and it has been amplified by media across the state.
But are the assertions true?
LNP Keppel candidate Adrian de Groot said this week he was "shocked" Labor had cut Rural Fire Service funding by 38 per cent, from $52 million to $32 million over the past two financial years - by $7 million this year and $13 million last.
Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister Lachlan Millar called it "devastating and demoralising" and "reckless beyond belief".
The LNP got its information from a Facebook post in which the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland wrote that a "disgraceful" 14 trucks would be funded by this year's RFS capital works budget.
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford last week said his party's RFS budget was $40.8 million.
He said Labor had, since being put in power in 2015, paid for more than 330 new 'appliances' (vehicles) for rural brigades, which was "an average of around 60 new trucks every single year".
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services confirmed that last year, the RFS budget was $40.8 million, comprising $8.2 million for capital works (that is, the construction of buildings and fleet purchases) and $32.6 million for operating costs (or regular expenses, such as fuel).
It said that this financial year, "there has been no decrease in the RFS budget".
As far as appliances go, QFES said its delivery "isn't uniform, year-on-year" and repeated the average provided by Mr Crawford.
In 2018-19, QFES received an "injection" of $13 million to speed up an RFS fleet build program, which resulted in the delivery of 119 "vital" appliances "far sooner than originally planned".
"Delivery of RFS appliances has been accelerated in previous years, where possible, to get appliances to brigades sooner," QFES said.
"For instance, 119 were delivered in 2018-19.
"In 2020-21, 32 appliances are scheduled for delivery, of which seven have already been delivered."
The budget debate
The lack of a state budget, in itself a source of debate, clouds discussion of government funding, and the LNP considers its publication the answer to many cross-chamber disputes.
Mr Millar said that "until the Palaszczuk Labor Government comes clean and releases a state budget, no one can trust a word they say on spending".
When questioned about the budget's cancellation, Mr Crawford said: "This decision was based on the advice of the Prime Minister and Governor of the Reserve Bank who have said it is simply not sensible to produce economic forecasts at this time."
The Labor Party nevertheless promised to publish an economic review in September.
But putting the budget to one side, what can we know of RFS funding?
In short, Labor is not spending less on the RFS this year than it did last year.
The suggestion that $7 million was recently snatched from brigades might have come from confusing the RFS' total budget ($40.8 million) with the operating portion of it ($32.6 million), as subtracting the latter from the former is the calculation LNP spokesmen said informed that claim.
It is untrue that only 14 trucks will be provided to regional brigades; there are in fact plans for 32.
Strictly speaking, the total RFS budget did diminish between the 2018 and 2019 financial years by more than $11 million because, according to QFES, the provision of appliances in advance caused an anomalous spike in funding in 2018, unrepeated the following year.