Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991
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
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 1 May 1991 population resident in the capital cities on a 6-state average is 60.6%. In the Northern Territory, it is 46.8%. Expenditure on roads is a case in point. It is one of our major capital infrastructure expenditures. The number of persons per kilometre of road - that is, the number of persons who are able to fund either currently or in the future the provision of roads - in New South Wales is 29.37 persons per kilometre. In the Northern Territory, it is 7.39 persons per kilometre. It is entirely just and reasonable that we would have a high level of debt per capita if only to maintain similar standards of roads from place to place, from place of employ to place of residence, from industry source to industry consumption. Simple access to vast areas of the Territory entails a greater capital cost per head of population. Mr Speaker, I come back to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have some statistics in relation to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The final price of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 was 9.557m or 17% of the budget outlays in that year. Now, 17% of New South Wales' total budget outlays in this financial year will be $3434m. If one were to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge today, which easily has proved itself to have an economic life in excess of 60 years - and that is merely to build the bridge, not the Cahill Expressway, the Warringah Expressway, the elevated railway over Circular Quay etc - at 17% of budget outlays, the cost would be $3434m. That is a project which New South Wales clearly could not afford, to use the logic of the opposition. However, given that that bridge has been in use now for 60 years and will be in use for another 60 years, it was not an unreasonable debt to incur. The critical issue in all this is the question of what is an appropriate level of debt and I am sure the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Millner, will contribute on that aspect of the debate. What can you measure an appropriate level of debt against? The paper presented by the Treasurer provides a number of comparisons of the Territory debt position to that which pertains in the states. There can be no doubt that, generally, the Northern Territory position compares favourably with that of the states on a number of measures, the most important and relevant being the Northern Territory's capacity to pay. Notwithstanding what the Leader of the Opposition may say in respect of the ABS projections, it is still about 8.1% of our net total outlays. Our net interest is about 8.1% as against the state average of 10.8%. Those statistics are of any comfort only if, in looking at them, we assume that those states are properly managing their debt. Clearly, Victoria and Tasmania are not properly managing their levels of debt. A better comparison could be made between the Northern Territory and the remaining 4 states. That gives a net debt servicing requirement across those 4 states of 8.025%. The Northern Territory figure of 8.1% still compares reasonably favourably. Another useful comparison may be made between gross product, gross debt and gross interest payments. Territory gross debt as a ratio of gross Territory product grew quickly in the early years of self-government until 1983, when it reached 39.8%. Since that time, it has varied, but mainly it has hovered around the 40% mark. To put that into perspective, in 1949-50, Australian gross debt, as a percentage of GDP, was 140%. That fell steadily in the intervening Liberal years until 1982-83, when it reached the all-time low of 38%. The level of gross debt as a percentage of gross national product now stands somewhat over 40%. Our gross interest payments generally hover around 4.5% of gross Territory product, the net payment being somewhere around 2.7% of gross Territory product. Comparing our debt to GDP provides us with an indigenous 851
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