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




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 - Thursday 1 May 2003 things do you think a northern girl should know before she goes into parliament here? Without exception, every single house that I went to, without any prompting from me, commented on issues relating to law and order. So it is very much an issue here, and I do counsel the government to be very careful when they try to pooh-pooh us in the opposition by saying that the things that we have been raising during this week are not real. They are very real to the people I met in the electorate of Braitling. For example, I met one woman on one side of the street who is planning to have children in the next few years. She said that she and her husband were going to leave Alice Springs because they did not feel that it was a safe place to raise children. Then, when I turned around up the end of the street and came back, immediately opposite her, I met an elderly couple, who were quite perturbed. They have grown children and grandchildren here in Alice Springs and they do not feel safe. They cannot walk to the shops and feel safe. They are quite elderly and a little physically disabled, and they do not feel safe. As a consequence, they fortunately have a grown adult child living in Melbourne, and they are contemplating moving to Melbourne because of the problems they are facing in Alice Springs at the moment with issues of law and order. Another woman I met was very, very angry. Apparently, her daughter who is eight, is only allowed to go to the shops on Sunday because that is the day that the bottle shop area is closed. This means Sunday is the day that she perceives is the safest day that her eight-year-old daughter and her friend can go to the shop to get an icecream. The previous week, the daughter and her friend had gone to the shops, and there was a drunk inside the shop who physically bailed the two girls up demanding that they give him money. The girls ran home crying. The woman who spoke to me was absolutely furious about it. It is a real indictment on our society and our community that that sort of behaviour is going on. The way those young girls would have felt as a result of that will probably stick with them for a very long time. So, I do hope the government is able to initiate strategies that are going to be able to curtail this problem. It is across the board in the Northern Territory; it is certainly happening in Darwin. Things are getting worse and this government needs to do something about it. Since I have been the shadow health spokesperson for the opposition, it has been a real pleasure to be able to visit health agencies in the Northern Territory. I must compliment the minister and her staff for the assistance that they have given me over the last four or five months in being able to visit health areas in the Northern Territory. I have toured, for example, Royal Darwin Hospital, Katherine Hospital, Tennant Creek Hospital and Alice Springs Hospital, and various other small agencies. I will continue to do that. I thank the minister and the staff, who often have to travel, for example, to Tennant Creek to be with me while I do my tour and meet with the management of the hospitals. One of the things that comes out of being the shadow spokesperson for health is that people come to me with their problems - staff, patients. Often they will say who they are and I will meet them personally. I also get letters, e-mails, faxes and even phone calls which are anonymous, particularly from staff. From that information, I gather what is going on within the department. That is my job. When you are the shadow person your job is to be a watchdog of that department and to make public, where appropriate, issues which arise. So, that is what I am going to spend the rest of the time I have available here this afternoon: put them on the record for the people of Alice Springs. I guess one of the first things that became apparent at the end of last year - and has not been resolved - is the frustrations which managers within the Department of Health and Community Services have at the moment with regard to the budget. As you know, around the period when I was appointed to this position in December, the budget to be given to departmental areas had not been handed down. Managers did not know what their finite budget for this financial year was going to be. We are almost at the end of the financial year and still units have not been given their budgets which means that managers are very frustrated. Because of the financial problems that the department finds itself in now, the cracking down on spending has meant that managers are having to jump through significant hoops in order to be able to purchase goods, and to be able to recruit staff. When employment contracts come up for renewal, it has not been uncommon for those contracts to literally finish and the staff to be shown the door. For example, here in Alice Springs Hospital, the pharmacy, I am told, is grossly understaffed. There are huge frustrations there as the staff who are left try to cope with the rather incredible workload that they have. Another example is in Katherine. The speech pathology position came up, and the speech pathologist wished to stay - no, there is no money in the budget, contract lapses and the person has to leave town. In places like Darwin, where you have perhaps four or five - 1 do not know the exact number - speech pathologists, the loss o f one or two perhaps will not be the end of the world. However, when you are in a very small town like Katherine, and even worse, for example, if 3966