Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003

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Parliamentary Record 11


Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005




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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 1 May 2003 All too often in the heat of debate, whether it is in this Chamber or outside or a need to get a story up in the media, there seems to be a lot of focus on rhetoric rather than on the truth. I am particularly concerned that members opposite are more inclined to paint a picture of doom and gloom and seek to create a perception that the Martin government has failed to manage the Territory economy properly. I am not denying - none of us on the government bench has denied - that many businesses in the Territory have had a tough time recently and have faced difficult times in the period of consolidation. However, the rhetoric o f the opposition does not match the reality. It demeans the energy and the skills of many Territory businesses that have adapted to the challenges, are adapting the challenges and are going on to expand their operations. The facts follow. Gross state product increased by 4.8% in 2001-02 after rising 4.1% in 2000-01, and a rise of just 0.3% the year before that. State final demand, the broadest measure of the economy available on a quarterly basis, grew by 13.3% in 2002 compared with 2001 - by far the highest growth rate of any Australian jurisdiction, more than twice the Australian average of 6.3% and in contrast with growth of just 1.8% in the year before the Martin government came to office. If we break that down, both household consumption and private investment have shown the strongest growth o f any Australian jurisdiction. This governments top priority is jobs, and I am pleased to report that employment, passing 98 800, is higher than when we came to office despite the set backs that have occurred. The unemployment rate, at 6%, is lower than the Australian average and well down from the 7.8% that we inherited back in August 2001. Various business surveys and reports, including Access Economics, BIS Shrapnel and Drake, all point to strong employment growth for the Territory in coming months and years, and we are expected to outpace the rest of Australia. Under the CLP, new motor vehicle sales declined in each of the three years to 2001. In 2002, the first full year of the Martin government, they rose. In March 2003, trend sales were 10.1% higher than a year earlier and at their highest level since April 1999. In 2000-01, the number of private sector dwelling commencements fell by 42%, their corresponding value by a third. In 2001-02, the number rose by 4%, the value by over 15%. A similar picture is reflected in housing finance approvals; their value, in trend terms, now higher than at any time since May 2000. This is in direct response to higher levels of economic activity and the changes in stamp duty introduced by this government in our last budget. As a consequence, the average price of established houses across the Territory is rising again, after falling in 2000-01 under the last days of the CLP. New company registrations have been higher for this government than for the final 16 months under the previous one. Conversely, there have been 68 bankruptcies since August 2001 compared with 83 under the last 16 months of the CLP. There is a similar picture for Central Australia. The residential vacancy rate in Alice Springs was 5% in March, below the long-term average of 5.6%. Over the past year, the average price for a residential lot has reached a record $105 000 and the average price for an established house in Alice Springs increased by 11.5% in 2002 - the highest price rise for any Territory centre, and compares favourably with an average 7.2% increase across the Territorys urban centres. Data from the Department o f Employment and Workplace Relations, which provides regional breakdowns within the Territory, shows: employment rising and unemployment falling for both Alice Springs and the regional area during 2002; over $300m in mining activity in the Centralian region; and horticultural production growing at rates in excess of 25% a year, now exceeding $20m per annum. Madam Speaker, we do not want to detract from those businesses that are still doing it tough out there. The truth is that, on a wide range of measures, the Territory economy is performing better now than it did under the final years of the Country Liberal Party, and respected forecasters, such as Access Economics and BIS Shrapnel, share this optimism with their five-year forecast, with both predicting strong economic growth for the Territory, well above the Australian average. Mr REED (Katherine): Madam Speaker, the Treasurer can talk in glowing terms about prospects for the future and what is going to happen in five years time; business today is worried about how they are going to survive for the next month and pay the salaries of their staff - that is what they are concerned about. The facts are quite the opposite of what the Treasurer has just portrayed. He only has to refer to the Auditor-Generals report, released this week, to do that. His income from Territory taxation has decreased, as pointed out by the Auditor-General. That can only be because there are fewer activities across the private sector paying tax. 3934