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Fiery debate over Qld rental bond changes

Queensland’s treasurer has denied his proposed changes to rental bonds processes is a ploy to balance his upcoming budget.

The government wants to change the way Residential Tenancies Authority funds its own operations under a law change being debated in parliament.

The RTA has used investment returns on rental bonds to fund itself, but Treasurer Cameron Dick plans to give it a $35 million annual grant.

The Liberal National Party claims the government plans to use $1 billion in bonds to improve its own balance sheet in next month’s budget.

LNP MP Ray Stevens alleged Mr Dick could have the RTA valued as another asset to borrow against.

“A tricky-fingered Labor government has demonstrated that it will use dodgy accounting, valuations and any non-disclosure of financial dealings to avoid a ratings agency downgrade because of its indiscriminate, large-scale borrowings, shattering the Queensland balance sheet,” Mr Stevens said during an at-times fiery parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

Mr Dick rejected claims he’s cooking the books, saying the rental bonds would remain part of the RTA balance sheet.

“There will be no increase to the value of assets or liabilities shown on the general government sector balance sheet as a result of the changes,” the treasurer said.

“The RTA will continue to show the value of bonds as an asset, which will now be held as cash rather than investments and the value of the bond liability on its balance sheet.”

Mr Dick said there would be no changes to the way renters and landlords interacted with the RTA.

He said the change would the help the agency get “away from having to worry about investments”.

But LNP Treasury spokesman David Janetzki said the change was inexplicable as there had never been a suggestion the current RTA funding model was “anything but stable and reliable”.

“There are no instances of the RTA failing to pay out a rental bond due to limited cash flow and the RTA’s financial reporting data indicates a very strong 2021 financial year,” he said.

The volatility of returns on the rental bond investment was the reason for the proposed changes, Queensland Treasury said in a submission on the amendment.

“In a number of years it has had losses and in other years there have been large gains. It depends on where financial markets have gone,” the department said.

“The purpose of this is that they will not take on risky investments in order to fund their operations.”

The debate continues with the amendments likely to pass on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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