Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 November 1999



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 November 1999

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Parliamentary Record 20


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




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 - Tuesday 23 November 1999 practice measures. The cost of transporting goods to and within the Territory will be reduced, and this will lower food prices. The Alice Springs to Darwin railway both dining its construction phase and on completion has the potential to influence more than transport costs. It will give a huge boost to local industry, will inject new energy into the economy, and will drive population growth. This latter is the fundamental element which will eventually put more competition into the Territorys retail markets. This government is not going to sit on its hands and wait for future benefits to flow from the railway project. The select committee has identified ten recommendations designed to address the prevailing problems of high food prices. I outline to the House the governments response to these recommendations and our reasons for arriving at these conclusions. Recommendation 1 seeks the regular monitoring and publication of food prices at localities throughout the Territory. This is a sensible initiative which may instill some additional competition as well as providing useful information. In my view, it would keep pressure on the retailers to moderate prices. As the Treasurer has pointed out there is real evidence that prices have moderated in every centre since the inquiry commenced. Treasury will conduct a grocery price survey which will be done quarterly in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs and Nhulunbuy, with Caims and Mount Isa included for comparison purposes. The results of the survey will be publicised. The publication of the results in the media and on the Internet will, I believe, maintain pressure on retailers. And Treasury involvement in such an activity is not without precedent. The Queensland Treasury has conducted a number of price surveys throughout Queensland. Recommendation 2 seeks that retailers introduce unit price labelling of the price per kilo or litre of a good. That is in addition to price labelling the actual price of the goods on sale, which may be any part of a kilo or litre. Unit price labelling of the price per kilo does already occur for most fresh produce, including meat, vegetables and fruit, and these items are generally where prices are highest in the Territory. The issue is receiving recognition at the national level and at the recent Trade Measurement Advisory Committee in Melbourne involving all states, territories and New Zealand - the issue was on the agenda. While the Territory government supports the national initiatives it is clearly not an issue on which we should proceed ahead of the other states and the ACT. Unilateral action by the Territory on unit price labelling is not practical or helpful. Such action might even increase costs with the extra handling and additional staff hours, particularly for small retailers, and that of course being passed on to the public. The issue of unit price labelling is not - a matter of immediate public concern and there is very little evidence of community support for such a measure. Accordingly, we will defer any action on this recommendation at least until there is action at the national level. Recommendation 3 encourages the government to continue its present policy of reducing commercial electricity tariffs. It also recommends that PAWA continues to publish in its annual report the inner city comparisons of electricity tariffs. The government welcomes the encouragement and continues to pursue lower tariffs for commercial operators with considerable zeal. A commitment has already been given to open the electricity market to competition to help ensure commercial tariffs approach the cost of supply. Publishing relevant comparable commercial tariffs will be increasingly difficult as individual electricity suppliers negotiate individual contracts with commercial customers. The Labor party has sought for many years now to put the cost of power on the political agenda. Thus there is the obligatory and beautiful minority report which seeks to impose time lines for a significant reduction to commercial tariffs at the end of this year, and commercial tariffs at the national average by the end of 2002. The Labor minority report also calls for payroll tax deductions. Well surprise, surprise. They do not say where we should get the money to pay for these deductions. They do not say which program should be cut to pay for the reductions and, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is clear that the Labor opposition continues to tum serious matters of public policy into some kind of dream-world discussion. I would say that generally, except that I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition did try to incorporate some realism into her statements. Speaking in this debate she said that she would like to see reductions in the cost of domestic power as well as commercial, but she did go on to say quote: You cant have everything, or not at this stage and not in this context. That is quite an awakening for the members opposite. You can not have everything and probably not at any stage or in any context either. The government will not be picking up the minority reports recommendations. We will not take up budgetary suggestions designed in a single 4816