Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991

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Parliamentary Record 3


Debates for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994




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 - Wednesday 1 May 1991 Opposition must know that we cannot build a Channel Island Power Station from a single budget, nor should we attempt to do so. What we do is build it and let Territorians pay for it while they are using the facility and enjoying the advantages it brings. What would the Leader of the Opposition do instead? Would he accumulate savings under a mattress and build a power station in the year 2015 when he thought he had collected enough? The great bulk of infrastructure built up through the Territory's prudent borrowing program is for community use. I do not see why anybody should object to the principle of paying off our borrowings over a period of time when it is apparent that all Territorians are gaining the benefits of that infrastructure. Is it fair that a group of Territorians in a particular year are slugged for the whole cost of a power station when it is patently clear that it will be used by Territorians who come after them? When we talk in this House about Territory debt, we are talking about borrowing to build assets. The opposition does not bother to talk about assets. This was particularly true during last year's election campaign. They leave the impression that debt is built up without purpose, that money is borrowed for no particular reason and that, somewhere in the Territory, there must be some sort of mini-Fort Knox containing a pile of money which we are doing nothing with other than paying interest. Let me say it again: there is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing to build assets for the benefit of current and future generations of Territorians and letting current and future generations pay for them. Indeed, that is exactly what a responsible government should do. It becomes a community problem only if the repayments grow to a level that cannot be sustained by the community, and that is what has happened in Victoria. That is not what is happening in the Northern Territory. It is to be expected that, as the Territory accumulates a state-like level of debt in providing state-like infrastructure, net interest payments relative to total revenues and grants will generally trend upwards. However, o.nly Queensland, at 4%, will pay a lower proportion in 199091 than the Territory's 8.1%. Note that figure. It is not 16%. I will prove yet again that the Leader of the Opposition has his figures wrong. Mr Ede: You are counting the wrong stuff. Mr COULTER: That rate is the same as it was in 1987-88. All the states will pay at a higher proportional rate than the Territory, with Victoria topping the list at a whopping 16.7% or double that of the Territory. Let me make this critical point absolutely clear. We are talking about the Territory's interest payments on its borrowings as a proportion of total revenues and grants. That is the real measure of the cost of debt, as any person who manages a standard household budget will testify. The bottom line is that Queensland is in a better position than the Territory. In other words, the Territory debt problem so constantly alleged by the opposition is, in reality, no problem at all. Honourable members need not take my word for it. They can read the Treasury paper because it is all in there. I table that statement for the benefit of honourable members. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to table 14 in the document, titled 'Public Sector Net Interest Payments as Proportion of Total Revenue and Grants Received in 1990-91'. Northern Territory net interest payments are estimated at $124m, or 8.1% of our total revenues and grants. Queensland is also in good shape. Its proportional net interest payments are 4% and there 838

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