Territory Stories

Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017



Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017

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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





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Thursday 19 October 2017 2724 distance of their jurisdictions. From the start, equity was a dominating principle in the CGC, and the HFE mechanism was adopted to deliver it. It is not the only reason. In the 1930s the Australian Government recognised that the stability and p roper functioning of the nation required the proper funding of all parts of the nation. The agitation in the 1930s led to the people of Western Australia voting to secede from the federation. National stability and viability has also been an important factor underpinning the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the HFE. It is a recognition that we have common citizenship rightsnot a reasonable effort, but an equality of common citizenship rights. Over the years many economists have also argued that the application of HFE has benefited the national economy, creating efficiency nationwide and opening up economic growth in places where such growth would otherwise not occur. We have to be very careful. If we go down the path the Australian Government is advancing then we will stay on the cycle of everything being about Sydney and Melbourne. We have to break away from that if we want to grow as a nation. To grow as a nation we need people to want to move to the north, to our deep water port in Darwin, close to the gas, close to the markets. We want to open up and grow the north and make sure we are supporting policies nationally that do that. Unfortunately the Australian Government seems to be going down this policy path of looking after a small corner of the eas t coast of Australia. That will only further exacerbate the problems we have as a nation. We have to break away from that. Politically, I get it. That is where the majority of the people are and they are appealing to the majority of the votes and seats. We have to embrace and develop the north to grow as a nation. The easiest place to do that is from the north, where we have a natural northern attitude. It frustrates me when we see, on a range of policies, a federal government that is more interested in w here the bulk of the voters live than embracing genuine Australian-wide policy. Over the years the application elements of the formula have had some tweaks and slight changes. Sometimes those changes have benefitted the Territory and sometimes they have not. The most recent tweaks shaved $2bn off our bottom line, which was probably the greatest negative impact in our history. It was quite an incredible change. Even in those changes, the underlining principles of HFE have not been successfully challenged until this momentuntil the Productivity Commission report, at the request of the Australian Government. That cannot be ignored. In all of those recent reviews, the arguments put by the Northern Territory Treasury have been accepted and understood as being genuinely right for this nation. In that review the Territorys submission was praised for its education of other states and its persuasiveness in support of the HFE principles. So what has changed? The Productivity Commissions interim decision to challenge the principle of equal services, and water it down to reasonable chance of equal services is a fundamental challenge that shakes the very foundations of the system we have in place to bind the nation. It has been done at the urgings of an Australian Government desperate for votes in Western Australia and on the east coast. This is not good for the country and is being driven by political concerns. In some ways we should congratulate Western Australia on its bipartisan political persistence to drive a policy that will damage the nation. It has been relentless in arguing for this. Western Australias collective attack on federal governments of all stripes uses the argument that its GST is being robbed, but it denies the fact that we are a nation. It stands in stark contrast. WA is denying we are a nation. I guess that is the heart of Western Australia. We are a nation and our policy has to reflect that. It is amazing that WAs leadership got th is up in the first place. WA is destroying what it fought for 80 years ago. Those arguments have not prevailed in the past from WA because Australian Governments have recognised their responsibility to be the Australian Government. Unfortunately that is not the case today.