Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (19 August 1981)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (19 August 1981)


Debates for 3rd Assembly 1980 - 1983; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 3rd Assembly 1980 - 1983




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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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 19 August 1981 system. We are the only place in the country for which the Commonwealth subsidises electricity. It is not something that it is obliged to do and it thinks that it would be fair if the Northern Territory people took over the responsibility of paying their own electricity bills. Because of circumstances and a very good agreement that was obtained by my colleagues, the Treasurer and the Chief Minister, some years ago, we have been alleviated of that responsibility to the degree of 50%. We have an agreement to pay the other 50%. Members seem to suggest that we should not worry about that 50%. If we can get it down to 47%, 46% or 44% with a little bargaining, then let's be in it! I would like to remind members, and they would have heard it last night, that the Commonwealth subsidy this year is $45.2m. That is a very considerable electricity subsidy for the Northern Territory people to receive from the Commonwealth this year. If we wish to maintain any integrity and continue to receive amounts of that magnitude, then we should properly put our house in order. The member for Sanderson suggested that the whole move was sinister and retrospective. I would like to remind members that our flow-on comes from Queensland at the beginning of each quarter, if it comes. The announcement generally comes on 30 June each year. It flows for 12 months and it is of the order of 12-16%. What we have upon our shoulders is the responsibility for collecting revenue within the Northern Territory that is equivalent to the increase in north Queensland. It is not responsible to defer our charges for 3 months, not collect the full amount and then say to the Commonwealth: 'Well, it was too hard and we do not want to upset the people'. Members have also compared the system of electricity charges with water charges. It would seem to me that that is like comparing pawpaw with egg fruit. To start with, there is no Commonwealth involvement in the way we set water charges. It is our responsibility to arrive at a formula for water charges. We have an agreement with the Commonwealth on how electricity charges will be set and it is .incumbent upon us to keep to that agreement. Secondly, we are talking about an annual turnover in the Water Division of $3m-$4m from which we lose $lm in operational costs. We subsidise that out of general revenue. That is markedly different from a turnover of $90m-odd which is subsidised to the degree of 50% by an outside party which can withdraw the subsidy if that seems to it to be a reasonable thing to do. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that I have boasted on some occasion that I have been able to delay an increase. I can assure you that I would not willingly delay an increase because you do not delay anything; you just put off the inevitable to another day and the pill becomes more bitter when you have to take it. Any delays that have occurred have been the result of the administrative action that we have to go through to collect our money. One other member suggested that the subsidy is paid on the basis of our effort and, if we do not make an effort, then the subsidy will fall. I believe that that is as true as we stand here. If we do not make an effort to get what is expected of us under the agreement we have with the Commonwealth, we can expect the subsidy to fall and the shortfall that comes from that exercise will be made up by the people of the Northern Territory from general revenue. I cannot accept the suggestion of the member for Arnhem who thinks that everything comes from some mystical place and when you get it you spend it on what you want. The bottom line is all that counts and, if it does not balance, we have some homework to do. The member for Arnhem also raised the matter of the attitude of Australians generaliy towards the Northern Territory. In the matter of electricity and its subsidy, the attitude of Australians has to be regarded as generous. We receive something that no other state receives an~ in some cases, we receive it 1290

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