Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3842 their electoral interests to talk down the economy and, where there are silver clouds, they see enormously black heavy linings. I am aware, as Access Economics and ABS remind us from time to time, of the volatility of the Northern Territory economy due mainly to its small size. Small upsets, of course, can cause major problems. The threat of interest rates is significant to the Northern Territory. Housing costs are high and interest rates have a much more stark effect in the Top End and the Centre than they do across the major eastern cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. It is the federal governments failure to adequately manage interest rates that is not helping our cause at all. We are also conscious of the fact that we have to have flexibility. We must have the capacity to respond to any downturn in construction or any other key economic indicator. A big part of the problem faced by the CLP in 1998 to 2001 was that they had no flexibility at all within their budget to counter a downturn in the economy. Instead of being able to spend more money on infrastructure projects, the CLP had saddled themselves with spiralling deficits and mounting debt. The debt of employee liabilities to revenue ratio in 1998 was 148%. It is now 113%, and we are looking to drive it lower. Unlike those problems, the threats to our economy today are not generated by this government; they are external pressure points to which we have to respond. Our level of federal funding is determined by our relativities, and factors such as increase in population and size of the GST are small change when relativities can tighten finances considerably. A reduction in GST receipts has the same effect but, while GST growth is slowing, there has not been, so far, a decrease in those revenues. Our population is also a fragile issue. While natural growth in overseas immigration remains strong, the Territory has only had rare periods since the mid-1980s when interstate migration has been in the positive. They have invariably been associated with the military growth around 1995 to 1997. It is remarked that we had a full year of positive interstate migration over the last 18 months or so. That remains a borderline issue, but it is still much better than it was. We are predicting 1.7% growth. That is strong growth, and we will do whatever we can to ensure that level of growth is maintained. We will do that by promoting the lifestyle of the Territory to all those people who are not fortunate to be living with us. At any time, the government has to ensure flexibility in the budget. It has to provide enough funds to keep construction and the other economic drivers of the economy moving along. We have to invest in those key strategic drivers to keep expanding and growing the economy, and we have to manage budget issues such as public sector wages and requests for additional expenditure, and ensure that where we are in deficit territory, the deficit is very tightly controlled. They are the things that Treasury and the Treasurers office do on a daily basis because it does require daily management, scrutiny and effort. That is why, when we come to the key point of it, that Territorians cannot trust this economy to the CLP. All I could do was to shake my head when I heard the latest intervention into enterprise bargaining by the Country Liberal Party. The member for Greatorex has form on this. He is fond of grabbing a cheat sheet from someone purporting to represent a union, as he did during the teachers EBA last time, and run to the electorate and copy it off a few hundred times and pay a few people to go and doorknock. He does not worry about the accuracy of the document that he is circulating. He has form again here because he has jumped in and urged nurses to take industrial action, just as he was urging teachers to do in the last EBA. We have seen a couple of times now where they have urged public servants to go for high wage increases. In what book of economic management such practice lies is beyond me: to urge public servants to go on strike and to go for high wage outcomes. It is one thing to talk about the ability to recruit and retain your public servants. They are important issues, they are key issues on the table when you are in the middle of an EBA. It is one thing to support those things you might do about recruitment and retention, and to empathise with the concerns of the particular group, whether it is nurses, teachers, firies or whatever. However, it is another thing altogether to be urging industrial action in support of high wages outcomes, because that is fiscal vandalism - fiscal vandalism ... Mr NATT: Madam Speaker, I move that the Treasurer be granted an extension of time to conclude his remarks pursuant to Standing Order 77. Motion agreed to. Mr STIRLING: I thank the House for their support. I say on that point that the business community is looking a little sideways at the CLP and wondering what might be behind this because it is not the CLP that the business community, the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of that constituency, has worked with in the past. Not only does the CLP persist in its view that the waterfront should be stopped, but they now
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