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 as debt is concerned, look better than it is. That is a very serious situation and one that the government should address; and the Treasurer should have addressed more thoroughly than the six minutes that he contributed to this debate this evening. There are some other very worrying aspects of the Auditor-Generals report. I move to the question of government business divisions, the enterprises of government - the Power and Water Corporation, NT Fleet, to name a couple - and the performance of those bodies in their success as regards the business acumen and the trading of these agencies. It is worrying in the extreme - if the Treasurer is interested, he might turn to page 43 of the Auditor-Generals report - that in the year 2000-01 when the Treasurer inherited these organisations from the CLP, they made a $36m profit. I point out to the Treasurer, if he is interested enough to be following this that, in fact, in the Auditor-Generals report, that is shown as a loss. In the little time that we have had to go through this report, given it was only tabled the day before yesterday, it looked apparent that what is shown as a loss of $36m - nearly $37m indeed - is a profit. I took the trouble this morning to telephone the Auditor-General. I daresay there would not be many Auditors-General around the country who answer the phone. However, I got straight on to Mike Blake, and that clearly demonstrates his willingness to be able to assist members of parliament or anyone else who wants to speak to him about matters of government finance. I discussed this with him, and he has confirmed that, in fact, there is a typographical error, and that is all it is. These things can and, unfortunately, from time to time do happen. I am not making an issue of the bracketed figures here, apart from the fact that when this current government took over from the last government, they had a number of government business divisions - the Construction Division, Darwin Bus Service, Darwin Port Corporation, the Government Printing Office, Housing, Business Services, ITMS, NT Fleet, NT Treasury Corporation, Power and Water Authority, Territory Discoveries, Territory Insurance Office and Territory Wildlife Parks-w hich, in 2000-01 under a CLP government, made a profit of $37m. In 2001-02, only a year later, there was a $48m turnaround. That is to say, deduct $48m from the $37m profit of the previous year, and those organisations are now shown as having an $ llm-plus loss. That demonstrates a few things to us, I believe. First o f all the policies, and perhaps the direction and the oversight of this government, is not having an effect that Territorians would expect it to have in positive terms, and that the trading circumstances - it would not be drawing too long a bow - of these government business divisions perhaps are reflecting the broader economy and the trading circumstances of too many businesses in the Northern Territory which are finding the going very tough. It is only reasonable to draw those comparisons; that whilst the government - and we have heard it a number of times this week - are getting up and waxing lyrical about a strong tourism industry, and they are doing all the wonderful things and everything will be rosy, just relax, and talking about what is going to happen in five years time, and the future is bright, as I said earlier today, business across the Northern Territory is today concerned about how they are going to pay the salaries of their staff next week and next month. They are concerned about being able to survive the next four or five years in order that they might still be in business to be able to enjoy the good times, if and when they come. O f course, we all hope that they do arrive and that the business circumstances improve. It is remarkable that a Treasurer should get to his feet and speak to the Auditor-Generals report and not even make the slightest reference to the fact that there has been a $48m turnaround in government business divisions from a $37m profit to an almost $12m loss. That is an astounding position for a Treasurer to adopt, and it should send shivers through the Northern Territory community regarding where this government is heading and its mastership over the finances of the Northern Territory. I also made reference earlier to a number of other issues. I want to touch on a couple because, whilst there are lot of decreases in the use of cash reserves that this government has absorbed over the last 21 months, there has also been - and it is again amazing that the Treasurer did not mention this - an increase of $169m of Commonwealth grants to the Northern Territory. That is an absolutely staggering amount - an absolutely staggering amount. There is no reference to that by the Treasurer. He made no reference to the fact that, on the one hand he has borrowed an extra $100m over the last year, he has spent $170m of cash reserves. Where has that gone, there was no mention, either, of that from the Treasurer. In addition to that, we have $169m extra in one financial year that he has received, which also received no reference from the Treasurer - but all that money is gone. Well, Treasurer, we would have liked to have heard where it has all gone, because it is pretty hard to consume a $169m increase in grants from the Commonwealth - and we hear a lot of criticism of the former CLP government in terms of black holes. Well, I remind you Treasurer that, in 2000-01, you inherited $292.9m in cash and deposits, as demonstrated here by the Auditor-General in his 3987