Territory Stories

Debates Day 4 - 20 August 1975



Debates Day 4 - 20 August 1975

Other title

Parliamentary Record 5


Northern Territory. Department of the Legislative Assembly


Debates for 1st Assembly 1974 - 1977; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT; 1st Assembly 1974 - 1977




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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pages 457 - 498

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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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466 him for presenting the statement and for the time and effort which I know that he has put into it in recent days. I would also like to add my thanks concerning the departmental officers who have assisted in the preparation of the papers and who attended the Assembly last night and today to provide explanations to individual parts of the papers and the statements. I would like to further make clear the degree of involvement of the Assem~ly Executive in the arrangement and planmng of our financial affairs for the coming financial year of 1975-76. I believe that it is somewhat exaggerated to say that our Executive Member for Finance and Law was an observer in the decision making process in the formulative stages of the budget. As I understand the position, it would be a valid criticism to say that, for most of our lives since last November, we have had little encouragement to participate in the estimates and budget exercises. The former Executive Member for Finance and Law made overtures to departmental officers late last year in the hope of becoming involved in the estimates but was met with reluctance and he was not permitted to participate in the early discussions. It was only in the last few weeks that, following approaches to the Minister who proved very co-operative, the honourable member for Alice Springs in his new role as Executive Member for Finance and Law was allowed to sit in on the very final stages of last minute adjustments. He has carried out these limited duties responsibly and at no stage has he discuss~d with me or any other member confidential information relating to this Budget. I certainly hope that, as he has indicated in his statement, things will be different this year and that our Executive Member for Finance and Law will sit in on the very earliest stages, when the calls go out to the branches of the Department of Northern Australia in September-October this year and that when the information starts to come back from them well before Christmas, he will be invited, having established that we can behave in a responsible fashion, to take part in the formation of next year's estimates from the beginning. In that case, we may be able to have some greater influence on certain priorities. I recognise that members received some of these papers late last night and some of them only this morning and have had a very limited DEBATES-Wednesday 20 August 1915 time to study them and make comment. However, we will endeavour at this stage to pick up some of the more obvious matters. Other matters as they come to light in the future will be dealt with in adjournment debate or however is appropriate. The departmental propaganda on the budget has taken the line that the Territory has done comparatively well and things could have been a lot worse when one looks at other places. That may be true and I have no doubt that Dr Patterson, who has a genuine interest in northern development, has fought hard and well in the Cabinet room on our behalf. I think that the share that we have gained reflects this. The back pages of the honourable member's statement, making comparisons between other growth centres and the Territory is fairly impressive, although some of the figures in the statement are perhaps a little complicated and hard to sort out as to exactly what they mean. Let us realise that, in accepting the dire economic situation in Australia generally and accepting that we may not have suffered as much as some other areas, there are still serious shortcomings in this budget as far as the Northern Territory is concerned, and I believe that it is our job in this Assembly to constructively bring these out and mention them. Possibly, when it comes to a review of the Budget later this year, the departmental officers concerned will take these on board and see if they can be adjusted or corrected. In some cases, the amounts voted for particular items will be completely inadequate to meet known commitments and more money will simply have to be provided for them. In other cases, the cuts which have occurred will have adverse effects on the Territory's future development. For members of this Assembly who are having their first budget, I would like to explain that budgets are not always what they seem, apparent gains can be illusory rather than real and can turn out to be losses and I have at least one example of this. Of course you are not told this; it is a sort of a game in which you have to work out the true facts for yourself. Let me turn to my areas of executive responsibility and look first at the matter of constitutional development and related expenditures. I am somewhat concerned to see that the establishment figure for the Northern Territory Public Service remains exactly the same, at 178 head, in 1975-76 as it was in 1974-75. No account whatever has been

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