Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (24 April 1985)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (24 April 1985)


Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987




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 - Tuesday 23 April 1985 proposed by the then Fraser government and ourselves, was real government whereby there would be predictable financial security for the first time and a recognition of the special circumstances of the Territory - the decades of neglect, the high cost factors and the lack of infrastructure. Most importantly, there was a recognition of our low taxing capacity relative to the states. We were never intended to be some puppet government having to please the Commonwealth with everything we did. The federal minister's moves in relation to superannuation are symptomatic of a deep resentment towards our level of funding and the way we spend some of it. That is why my references to the principles of self-government are so important in this debate. Self-government is about standing on your own feet, being allowed to make mistakes and being accountable for them. It is about Territorians determining their own future. Provided the Territory government disburses the funds available to it according to law, the Commonwealth has no role in oversighting our expenditure or passing judgment upon it; that is, if self-government means anything. Those principles I have referred to certainly meant a great deal to us back in July 1978. They were the very understandings that led us to accept self-government. They are the principles embodied in the Memorandum of Understanding. It would appear that the current federal government views the Northern Territory as some sort of parasite that will not go away. The actions of the federal Minister for Finance in regard to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme and his outrageous public statements about federal payments to the Territory demonstrate a total contempt for the principles of self-government and the arrangements between our 2 governments on the subject. I strongly suspect that his views stem from ignorance of the fact that, prior to self-government, the responsibility for providing government services and administration for all 1 500 000 km 2 of the Territory rested with the Commonwealth. If Mr Walsh thinks that the Commonwealth could do it as effectively and cheaper, then he is wrong and pre-I978 history shows that. The Minister for Finance clearly ignores Commonwealth payments to the states totalling $20 DOOm every year when he charges that the Territory is overfunded. This financial year, Western Australia will obtain 50% of its budget from the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland will obtain 55% of their budgets from the Commonwealth and Tasmania will get 61% of its budget from the Commonwealth. Does anyone here care to charge that none of those governments have mismanaged some of their funds? Of course they have. The Territory will get 85% of its budget from the Commonwealth. Our portion of Commonwealth revenue receipts is fully justified on the 50-year-old principle that, as citizens of the federation, all Australians are entitled to an equal standard of government services despite their geographic location. We all know that the Memorandum of Understanding is not a document we can drag the Commonwealth to court over; it is only as strong as the integrity of the parties to it. Despite our concerns about the integrity of the federal Labor government, the member for Millner said in August last year, and I quote from Hansard: 'The Hawke government is an honourable government and fulfills its commitments. When it wants to consider changing those commitments, it gives due notice and takes into consideration the views of other governments'. It seems Senator Walsh has not heard that he is supposed to be working for an honourable government. The rot started setting in when the former Territory member in the House of Representatives began his campaign in the federal parliament chirping about overfunding and alleged financial mismanagement by the Territory government. 714

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