Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995
Parliamentary Record 11
Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 gloom about every budget that is brought down in the Territory. Praise is very rare. We do not expect praise from the opposition because the very nature of adversarial politics is such that people look at anything that the government does with a view to criticising it. I have no problem with that principle. Only about a year ago, we heard from the Leader of the Opposition that the Territory economy was almost a basket case, that we were heading into an election and that we were in a terrible state. Of course, he was simply not believed at that time, nor will his claim today, that this budget is an absolute disaster, be believed. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that there has been some unpalatable tax news for some Territorians in this legislation. However, what the opposition should be doing is proposing, as subsequent speakers may well do, how it would divide up the revenue that is available to the Northern Territory government to spend and how it would reduce taxes - if it were to opt to do that in order to stimulate the economy or make the life of some Territorians easier - or where it felt that revenue could be increased. Members opposite have mentioned operations such as casinos where they believe some people should carry a greater burden than they are at present with a view to lessening the burden on other Territorians. In a sense, it is their job to present an alternative budget to Territorians, indicating how they would spend the roughly $2300m that this budget allocates to various purposes. The Leader of the Opposition quoted Mike Nahan of the IPA. He was very careful in his selected quote. The IPA did note that there was a large increase in Territory taxation. What the Leader of the Opposition omitted to report was that Mike Nahan awarded the Territory budget high marks overall for being a responsible, good management budget. The government is very pleased to hear those words because we are trying to manage the Territory in a very acceptable way. The Leader of the Opposition said that this budget is simply tax, tax, tax. He is wrong. That is not all it contains. There is some tax, but there is also a message of jobs, jobs, jobs. There is a high level of jobs in our community because of the quite incredible levels of building activity that are under way. I am pleased to note that that is partly as a result of Commonwealth expenditure in the Territory. Of course, there is very significant expenditure as well by the private sector in the Northern Territory and by this government. Our capital works program is down this year to some degree. It is an appropriate year for it to be down. Early in my Chief Ministership, we embarked on the State Square project because, at that time, with Australia heading into recession and the prospect of mass unemployment in the construction sector, we felt it was time to crank up Territoiy government spending as hard as we could. When the State Square project was being initiated, there were no decisions by the Commonwealth on the Alice Springs or Darwin Airports. Decisions were taken subsequently that major and long-overdue airports would be built by the Commonwealth at Darwin and Alice Springs. Indeed, they have been and I am sure we are all very proud of those facilities. However, it was a time when the government needed to tickle the industry with some dollars. The present, with something like $700m to $1000m-worth of work under way or coming out of the pipeline, is a time when government can ease back on some of its capital works. The budget reflects that our economy is in good shape. Of course, we will continue to feed our tourism industry, our pastoral industry, our mining industry and so on through government services and promotion. For those honourable members who are not aware of it, I point out that graphs of the Territorys employment trends these days are running very well. 3469
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