Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




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 Wednesday 14 February 2007 3837 advance and prosper the future of the Northern Territory. Politics is the issue here. It is the spin and the creation of impressions to serve your own political end. To heck with the issues that will remain lodged with mums and dads across the Northern Territory - remote, and in the northern suburbs, and in the towns across the Territory - who are going to inherit the cost of that little exercise. I am not going to stand on this side of the Chamber and say that that sort of stuff does not go on anywhere else except over there. It happens in parliaments and that is the sort of thing that lets the whole side down. However, in this case, those opposite know very well that there are certain issues that do need to be attended to, and they would much prefer to spend their efforts creating good impressions to serve their own ends. In all this largesse and good fortune, which is masked by the term good discipline, it makes for good spin, but not for the truth of the matter. There has been some discipline because it is required. You cannot be completely inept because you have a department behind you that is managing, but there are policy decisions that are made by this government. It concerns many observers of the Territory economy that there are problems emerging; that in these good times with this strong flow, you have the signs of preparation for when the flow goes into a different cycle. That is why there have been caps placed upon the public service, why there have been measures put in place, and why there are stories around the traps. No one has ever come to me , says anyone in government, telling me these sorts of things. Well, you were in opposition once. We hear the stories that do not come to those who seek the patronage of government, but they flow to the opposition, those who are concerned, about the reduced flow, the cut backs, and the concern that is flowing through those who manage the Territory assets. The money is starting to dry up. To illustrate what is called discipline and to demonstrate that is good fortune, last years general operating statement was looking at as there has been each year - nearly $100m above budget. If you are in business and you get a fair bit more each year than you expected, you think: Gee whiz, we must be doing pretty well, or can we trust these good seasons? Anyone who is in primary industry knows that if you have good season following good season, you cannot calibrate your planning on the basis of good season following good season. Anyone who knows history knows there are strong times and there are lean times. However, each year there has been an increase of income of about $100m above budget. Last year, there was, in fact, $250m more than expected. That is the result of extraordinary discipline? No, it is largely GST, stamp duty and payroll tax. There may be an argument that it is because of all the activity in the marketplace that has resulted in the payroll tax, and that activity is the result of some strategy of government. However, if truth be known, there are elements of management required of the economy, but largely they are forces that exist beyond the control and management of government policy. That has harvested a result of $250m more than expected, which sounds like a bumper season. Must have had a good shower of rain at the right time, and the crop has come in above expectation. Now, you have a budget surplus of $250m more than you expected. What would you do with that? Bear in mind, you organised how you were going to manage your own budget. Just like a household, you manage your own budget, that which is coming and that which is going, and at the end of the year: Dear, look! We have made much more than we expected. What are you going to do with that windfall? Are you going to acquit some of your debt? Are you going to turn out some of the obligations that will bite you in time to come and manage in the future? No. That is not the sort of discipline that was in place here. There was, in fact, an expected deficit. You expected it to be short, but got $250m more than you expected. You achieved a surplus. Aha! Media releases, earnest little talks, PowerPoint presentations. They all nodded in agreement. Yes, yes, we have done a wonderful job with GST, stamp duty and all that sort of stuff. We have harvested stamp duty off those poor folk who are buying land. There are people out there who are struggling to afford land, but you are making a motzer out of the turnover of land and that sort of stuff, and it results in a surplus when you expected a deficit. There we have the media releases and the reinforced perception that you are doing a great job, but do not dig too deep on this one, particularly those who find this economic stuff a little complicated. If you had $250m more than you expected, and you call it good discipline and good management, you would expect that there would be a $250m surplus - but no! This government talked about a $108m surplus. You lost $142m. If you expected a deficit, you have a surplus of $250m more than expected in income, and you came in with a $108m surplus, so there is $142m missing. That is telling, in a sense, that with all the increased activity that resulted in the surplus. It is the capacity to manage in times that are booming that will determine how you fare in the lean times, and that is what concerns me. There will be responses from the Treasurer to say that I do not