Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 6 May 2014



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 6 May 2014

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Hansard Office

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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 Tuesday 6 May 2014 4061 inefficient in generation and retail. It will be inefficient across the board, and that is what we are trying to rectify by introducing competition. A range of other things have come up again, with the Independents from remote areas concerned about Indigenous Essential Services. I reassure them again that these changes will have nothing to do with Indigenous Essential Services, and it will not change things there. I do understand the member for Nhulunbuys concerns about power supplies in remote communities, and she has said it is not good enough when somebodys power goes out or the price goes up. I remind the member for Nhulunbuy that taxpayers are subsidising those bush households to the tune of around $8500 a year. It is hardly the action of an uncaring government. This is a government which believes in the uniform tariff. People living in remote communities should not be penalised for living in remote communities, and we are prepared to subsidise their tariffs. To suggest $8500 a year per household is not good enough, I would like to hear from the member for Nhulunbuy as to what figure she thinks we should be subsidising bush households to. That would be an interesting scenario. The member for Wanguri needs to understand that prices are fixed. They are set and regulated by government. They will not change after these changes. What may change, if there are extra costs in the system, is the subsidy provided to the corporation. I find it ludicrous that Labor is concerned about subsidies and what we spend on them. This is the same organisation which saw the Northern Territory heading towards a $5.5bn debt, with a budget deficit of over $1bn this year, allowed Power and Water to borrow another $900m, with another $500m in borrowings yet to come and which saw the organisation put on an extra 200 employees with no change in service. Labor is now saying it is concerned about taxpayer subsidies which might have to prop up these new organisations. That will not be the case. These organisations, whilst they may initially cost some money to set up, which is only fair to see them established the whole idea about structural separation is to allow market competition to see efficiencies in the system, as well as accountability and transparency of where taxpayers money goes; it is currently very difficult to do that with the Power and Water Corporation. There is no accounting separation within the relative services it provides. We are trying to make the system much more transparent, accountable and efficient. Ultimately, Territorians are the ones who pay, one way or the other. We must reduce the amount of subsidies going into an organisation which could be much more efficient, because they should be going into other areas. Things like roads, schools and hospitals could use a lot of that money. If we can make the Power and Water Corporation and others in the sector much more efficient we would free up money for government to spend in other critical areas such as health, education and roads. Mr Wood: That is the argument for privatisation. Mr TOLLNER: There has been a couple of interesting arguments. I heard the member for Barkly say monopolies are worth more money and people will pay a hell of a lot more for a monopoly. That is probably true. If we were to privatise it, why would we not sell the whole thing as a monopoly rather than splitting it up? Privatisation is an interesting red herring being thrown around everywhere. I will mention an organisation called Australia Post, which has existed since the 1970s. Prior to Australia Post it was called the Postmaster-General. The PMG was responsible for all postage, plus telecommunications. Sometime in the 1970s the federal government decided to structurally separate the PMG, creating Australia Post and, at the time, Telecom. Telecom was later corporatised and became Telstra, and was then sold. Now in Australia we have a situation with several thousand competitors in the telecommunications market, but back in the day of the PMG there was only one, and it was the PMG. No company would get into that. It was government which had to pave the way and create many of the networks around Australia before competitors started to join the marketplace, but that has happened. There was the eventual sale of Telstra, which we all know happened under the Keating government and was carried on by Howard and others. Telstra is now a fully privatised company, but on the other side of the coin, Australia Post, is still, to my knowledge, 100% government. Admittedly there are small franchises where people buy the right to sell stamps and provide other Australia Post services, but it is still 100% Australian government owned. That was some 40-odd years ago and we have still not seen the privatisation of Australia Post. However, it is a much different organisation to 40 years ago. My point is that structurally separating something does not necessarily mean you will go down the path of privatisation. I understand it is easy to raise concerns that people have about privatisation. I was sitting in a Treasurers meeting a couple of weeks ago with Joe Hockey, where he informed us of the federal governments plan to provide incentives for states wanting to

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