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 2715 Scott Morrison cannot expect Territorians to only get a reasonable cut of the GST. If Scott Morrison and Senator Scullion truly want to close the gap on Aboriginal disadvantage then every Austra lian should be treated equally. I commend the motion to the House. Ms FYLES (Attorney-General and Justice): Mr Deputy Speaker, we have heard from the Treasurer today about the significant and dramatic GST cuts imposed on the Territory by the federal Treasurer. The Treasurer has described how further cuts and pressure are being brought to bear on the Northern Territory with the release of the draft report on the Productivity Commissions inquiry into horizontal fiscal equalisation. The recommendation to change the measure of horizontal fiscal equalisation from the word equal to reasonable may seem very minor and small, but it would have far-reaching and long-term consequences for every Territorian. If adopted, as the Treasurer has stated, it would permanently reduce the standard of services and infrastructure development in the Territory. No Territorian will be better off under this proposed arrangement. I condemn the move by federal Treasurer Scott Morrison to change the measure of horizontal fiscal equalisation. I stand united against this proposal which would widen the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, impact the delivery of health services, stifle development in the north and lead to a permanent drop in the Territorys share of the GST. Let me start with the impact the GST cuts would have on the delivery of quality health services across the Northern Territory. Any reduction in the GST will greatly impair the ability to maintain the present levels of health services to our communities. A cut to the GST has the potential to reverse the hard earned gains we have made in improving health outcomes for Territorians over the past two decades. Not only will essential government services be impacted, but it will potentially translate into less funding for the non-government sector to provide services such as information, advocacy, peak consumer actions, counselling services for youth, mental health, alcohol and other drugs programs, health promotion and consumer information services, research and evaluation. Whilst these services may not be considered essential by somewhich we saw when the CLP was in government and made cutsthey are imperative to maintaining the health and wellbeing of Territorians. Any potential GST cuts will impact on these services. They provide access to preventative health measures aimed at improving health and wellbeing, reducing disease and, in turn, the burden on our public health system. Any reduction in GST levels will affect some of our most vulnerable Territorians, who rely on the services and support provided by the hard-working NGO sector. The NGO sector is a significant contributor to the Northern Territory economy. It has been plagued in the past with uncertainty of future funding. This is why the Northern Territory Government has made a commitment to ensure five-year funding agreements to reduce the risks associated with short funding agreements , such as the ability to recruit appropriately qualified staff and to invest in equipment and infrastructure. One of the key strategies of the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments is to reduce the Indigenous disadvantage in the Closing the Gap strategy. Closing the Gap was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2008 and sets out measurable targets to monitor improvements in life expectancy, child mortality, access to childhood education, educational achievements and employment outcomes, which we are all passionate about. It is pleasing that in 2017 the Northern Territory showed substantial gains in life expectancy for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations over the relevant reporting period. We have seen positive improvements but we have a lot of work to do. The improvements can be attributed to reductions in the Aboriginal infant mortality rate, reduced deaths from infectious diseases and improved clinical management of chronic diseases. These improvements in the health outcomes and life expectancies for Territorians have been achieved through our quality, comprehensive health services such as strengthening and standardising core remote primary healthcare services, improving access to quality hospital services, and improving access to urban community hea lth services. The Northern Territory has the highest proportion of Aboriginal residents in Australia, representing 29.3% of the Territorys population. Of the Territorys Aboriginal population, 78.7% reside in remote communities.