Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
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Debates and Questions
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8366 These changes specifically change the Electricity Reform Act 2000 and the Water Supply and Sewerage Services Act 2000. They are similar acts that allow the responsible minister to issue pricing orders which may take effect from a retrospective date as long as the order does not increase the price. That is important, because when we talk about things operating retrospectively, the last thing you would want is a government to have the power to go backwards and charge more for time that has passed. This ensures that cannot take place; the price can only be lowered when going backwards. In many ways it is a minor technical amendment, but we note that its impact is substantial. It has a substantial beneficial impact on the people who will be able to avail themselves of it. We would like more information from the government on the numbers. We have seen a situation where the government has passed $3.4bn in appropriations; we did that a month or so ago at the last sittings. That completely goes against all of our usual budget processes and the transparency around it. The budget was literally a two-page schedule at the back of the bill. We supported it and recognised the need for it, but that does not alleviate the importance government must place on transparency and scrutiny. Now we know we will be having the Public Accounts Committee processes, but we still do not know if that up-to-date Treasury documentation will be published in advance of the meetings so that Territorians, economists and interested people can review the material, talk with elected members and members on the PAC and help inform questions to ask government or be part of that transparency process. It is really important for the government to do that. When this was announced by the Chief Minister on 8 April, he cited a total figure of $180m that this would cost. That announcement was also tied up with a payroll tax announcement. I ask the minister what portion of the $180m relates to this specific relief and what portion relates to payroll tax? We also have not heard from government on how it expects this to impact on the budget. It has not explained to us whether this impacts the governments community service obligations. We are keen to understand the thought process that the government undertook to come to the point of offering half-price power and water. We understand the rationale. We supported it. We called for tax, power and water relief from the outset. We are very pleased that the government has done that. Would we have done it differently? Yes, but that is all moot. We are here able to make a meaningful change and that is very important. Again, I reinforce that it does not absolve the government of doing its business and getting us through this crisis in an open and transparent manner. It does not give the government the green light to do whatever it wants. It is accountable to Territorians. We are in the parliament, so it is important that the government is transparent in the way it is going about things, explaining to people how much it will cost and where the money comes from. We are very supportive of this measure. It is very important that we do everything we can to take away some of those biggest burdens on business at a time when they are hampered by the environment that has permeated throughout the world. Madam Speaker, the opposition supports this legislation. Mr WOOD (Nelson): Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that anything to help small and large businesses reduce the damage being done by the Coronavirus crisis is most welcome. Some of the little people in my area will be hoping that their rents can go down, if possible. One way for those rents to go down can be reflected if the reduction in electricity and water prices occurs. It will be interesting to see what effect these changes will have. Whilst it is great that the government is doing its best to keep businesses going through this difficult time, as the Leader of the Opposition said, there needs to be some idea from the government of what this is costing. Obviously, it will affect the budget. We will have some PAC meetings coming up soon and I hope in those meetings we are not only talking about Coronavirus; we are talking about the budget now and into the future. We do not have any indication of what hit Power and Water will have on its annual budget if you cut it back 50%. What will be the effect on Power and Waters annual income? It is important to know that. The other one is community service obligations. If we are cutting back on how much money we are earning, obviously there will have to be an increase in the community service obligations. I note the community service obligation for the 201920 budget is $113.985m, which was an increase of close to $20m from the year before.
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