Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017
Parliamentary Record 8
Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 19 October 2017 2699 the Northern Territory. I will remind the honourable senator what his job is in Canberra, that is, to represent all Territorians. That is what he is elected to do, not bow to his federal colleagues, his Prime Minister, his Cabinet and, especially, his Treasurer. I think it is an absolute disgrace. Sometimes we need to be reminded what our roles are and who put us in those roles. I congratulate my colleague, the Treasurer, and the quality of the budget she delivered. We only have Minister McCarthy, my learned colleague from Barkly, who has sat in a Cabinet room before, and I respect the experience and knowledge he brings into our Cabinet. As a first time minister, going through that budget Cabinet process was tough. It was an eye-opener. We all go in there with priorities from our government, our departments and our election commitments, and for anybody who has been involved in any grant programs or budgetary processes like thatfor example, in a grant process you have $500 000 or $200 000 in grants. All up, everybody applies for about $4m or $5m, and you have to say, I only have $200 000 or $500 000 to disperse. You have to make sure you are going through every process to work out what will achieve the best outcomes for everybody. Going into that budget Cabinet process was an eye-opener. I applaud my colleagues, particularly the Treasurer for what she delivered in our budget, which is a good budget for Territorians. We know it is a tough budget, but we have a plan. One thing threatening that plan is the lack of support from our federal colleagues and the federal government. We will deal with that. But I remind you that 50% of the Territorys revenue base is GST revenue. This is a huge proportion of the budget in anyones terms, and we still have a lot at stake, proportionally more than any other jurisdiction. It is one thing to have a reduction in GST if the whole national GST pile were to shrink and all states and territories received a proportional budget reduction. However, to have a redistribution policy based on political drivers is unfair and, quite frankly, un-Australian. The whole point of having a horizontal fiscal equalisation policy is just thatan aspiration to deliver equitably and equally for all Australians, no matter where they live. I have grown up thinking that a fair go for all is a fundamental Australian value. This proposal throws that assumption on its head and kicks the barking dog. To consider changing the measure used in horizontal fiscal equalisation from equal to reasonable does not make any sense. Reasonable is a very inexact and judgement-based word. Who determines what is reasonable? Reasonable compared to what? A change in horizontal fiscal equalisation policy measures from equal to reasonable will introduce huge risks for all the states, not just the Territory, as allocation will almost be at the whim of the Productivity Commission and its federal, political masters. The Territory is a unique placeyou do not have to tell us thatwith new unique challenges and unique needs. Victoria has 5.82m people over 227400 square kilometres, which equates to 25.6 people per square kilometre. Our land mass is over 1.3m square kilometres, making it the third largest federal jurisdiction. However, our population is only 244000 across the massive land mass we call the Northern Territory. That is one person every five kilometres. That population is not spread evenly across the Territory. There are many hundreds of kilometres with no people between population centres. We have all driven the Stuart Highway and know that. There are 130000 people, or 57% of our population, concentrated in the Darwin, Palmerston and the rural hub. Alice Springs has around 28000 people and Katherine has around 10000. They are the next biggest population hubs in the NT. The remaining 70000 people are spread across the rest of the Northern Territory, across a vast region and remote areas. As you can imagine, this makes service delivery in the Northern Territory much more expensive per head of population than any other jurisdiction. There are a number of reasons for this, including that we cannot achieve the economies of scale that lead to lower per capita cost that other jurisdictions have. Our travel costs are high due to the huge distances we have to travel. The ability to attract and retain staff in remote areas is always a difficult and ongoing issue. Our premiums to attract staff in infrastructureit is expensive to construct and maintain infrastructure in remote areas. Those are just a few reasons why we have a higher service delivery cost.