Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002

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Parliamentary Record 9


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 - Wednesday 27 November 2002 delivered. We are now dealing with an outside provider. This provider is no longer part of government and therefore when a government purchases a service from any other company, what the government pays for it specifically is not necessarily public information. In fact, in most instances such information I imagine would be commercial-in-confidence. It then makes it more difficult to pursue the movement of money, and we do not know whether or not the same amounts of money are being spent in the remote communities, and indeed, government is to some degree at arms length from the purchase of these services. Certainly a minister - I notice that the Treasurer and the minister for education in this instance is the same person, but lets say the health minister running a clinic in a remote community is in no position to be able to dictate how much money is spent. The government purchases the service through an expenditure through the Minister for Community Development, but there is no way for the Minister for Health to check, really, to find out how much clinics are getting, or more importantly, not getting. Now, that is one of the ways that services are provided in the bush to remote communities, but unfortunately the processes that now exist is that there are two other levels. This is what the minister was at pains to point out this morning, is that in the instance where these particular schools were concerned, they were actually supposed to be supplied by local government authorities. In one instance, the local government authority is supposed to have its services purchased at a Territory government level from PowerWater; that is the example of Areyonga community. However, at the Hill outstation, the money is supplied by the federal government through ATSIC directly to the resource centre which is then supposed to outsource the funding to remote communities and homelands. We have three tiers of government overlapping in this area; we have no way of really knowing where the money is being spent at a federal, state or local level which means that cost-cutting is going to become very tempting to the federal level, to the state level and to the local level, and one of the products of this is that the services that are delivered into the bush are going to be seriously undermined. That is what we have seen in the schools over the last week, the issue I have been raising, is the thin edge of the wedge. What concerns me is because of the disparate and disorganised fashion in which these services are being delivered, we may be going from the sublime to the ridiculous at a horrible pace. Because it is in the jurisdictional area of the Northern Territory, this government will seriously have to start looking at ways to rationalise or streamline the delivery of these services. There is no communication between these tiers and I have the ugly premonition that as a consequence of this lack of communication, holes are going to form. You are going to see concentrations of cash in some places, where places are going to be over serviced, and then in between those overs-serviced areas you are going to find holes in the fabric and through the holes in the fabric, is where the pain is going to occur in these remote communities. I do not want to see that happen, simply do not want to see that happen. I am gravely concerned that you have three different levels of government offering similar services in remote communities and in communities where it is difficult to find the conduits of complaint. As I said at the outset, this is not a criticism of government; I merely flag this as an issue of concern into the future. We have no guarantees in how these services are delivered; we have no system through estimates or otherwise as this parliament to know where the money is going into the bush for the supply of services, and more importantly and more fearfully, where the money is not going into the bush. As I said before, there is a real risk that this could turn into cost shifting exercises, not because of any act of malice on the part of government, but simply because it becomes so tempting. If it is not traceable, if it is not accountable, and the pressure is on to save money, then the areas where accountability is at lower levels or non-existent levels, are the ones which will suffer first. I do not want to see a situation where we have a minister saying, kids at school, no water, not my problem. I am grateful that the minister this afternoon, during Question Time said, Not my problem; I appreciate that, but we will still take steps to intervene for the sake of the kids, and I am grateful for that. The other thing that concerns me is a curious question as to the asset structure of PowerWater. There are any number of assets sitting in any number of remote communities - generators, powerhouses, tanks, bores, those sorts of things - which were previously listed, or would be listed, on accounting systems as a zero value. The reason that would occur is because a zero value would be applied to an asset which we would effectively have no control over. These powerhouses stand on somebody elses land. There are no leasing arrangements that I am aware, for the existence of powerhouses and those sorts of things. The land they stand on is certainly not excised from the freehold land that they stand on, and therefore, there is a very big question mark as to who owns it. Now, if PowerWater, in relation to these assets, still values them as nil, who owns them, where are 3121