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 2723 This is a basic test for Australia, that there is equality in services across this country, not simply reasonable services. The standards in inner city Melbourne will be different to the standards in other parts of Australia. We want everyone to know we are equal. That is the heart of what we are debating today. It is simpl e. The system that has effectively governed this nation since the 1930s has been based on the principle that all states and territories should have the capacity to provide similar standards of public service to their people, and that each jurisdiction should be able to do this without imposing significantly different tax burdens on its people. There is some irony that the system of the 1930s was generated out of discontent from WA, and now WA is driving the effort to unpick that deal. It costs more to deliver a teacher to a classroom in Borroloola than it does in Geelong. It costs more to provide maternity services to the women of Yuendumu than it does to provide the same services in Newcastle. If we were required to pay the costs from the funds raised by the NTs own revenue base, or based on the funds we contribute to federal revenue, we would not be able to provide equality of service. The Member for Nelson just spoke about us not being a mendicant state. That is a very important point. We know the size of our revenue versus what we receive from the Commonwealth is out of proportion compared to other states. But our base is small. When you look at how much we raise out of our base compared to what other states raise out of their base, it is comparable. That is something the Treasurer can speak to in considerable depth. Invite her to a barbecue in your back yard and she will take you through our own source revenue and how much we raise. That is an important point that gets lost. It is simple to look at NT revenue versus federal revenue for the Territory. It is not so simple to realise that out of our own source base we do the heavy lifting and raise the same amount of money off our base than other states do off their base. They have bigger bases. This goes to a very important point, something that is separate to the HFE debate. The HFE debate is about equality of service delivery. What it forgets is that in the north parts of WA, Queensland and the Northern Territorywe are behind. The HFE is not designed to close the gap. That is why we have a Closing the Gap policy. We are behind when it comes to basic infrastructure. HFE is all about equality of services. Separate to that, we need a good Closing the Gap policy to bring us up to where the other states are. That cannot be forgotten when we debate this. If we go to reasonable it will be a double burden on the Territory. We are already starting behind, and now equality of funding to us is being attacked. It is simply not fair. Marshall Perron, the Chief Minister from 1988 to 1995, put it this way. He said, horizontal fiscal equalisation, the glue that binds the federation together. If you have heard that a lot it is because it is true. Every Labor Treasurer we have ever had has stolen that phrase, because it is true and is something we all unite on. HFE is the glue that binds the federation together. He was right. Every Territory Labor minister, Chief Minister and Treasurer has taken those words from that CLP Chief Minister because they are true. Our system of equalisation in Australia is the envy of the world. It is particularly admired in Canada, where they face the same issues of delivery of services to underpopulated regions. This is, in many ways, a unique system of equalisation of funding delivery. Former Premier Mike Baird studied and often spoke about this system needing to be protected and admired. We need to understand what we have done in Australia. It is a very important way of making sure Australians get equality of services. This came about because of WA. Ironically, WA is now agitated because of the failure of the federal government to provide adequate funding for services for developing economies. The outcome of that agitation was the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which exists because WA complained in the 1930s about the delivery of equality of services. The Commonwealth Grants Commissions underpinning principles from day one has been recognition that the nation had the responsibility of creating equity in state and Terri tory funding so that Australians, no matter where they live, can have services such as education, health, hospitals, law and order et cetera, provided by the state in recognition that states would not be able to do this equitably based on their population, size and
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