GUEST COMMENT by BOB DURNAN
With the fire sale of TIO having proceeded, local CLP supporters are agitating for Adam Giles’ government to invest in what they call “sensible infrastructure”.
They appear to mean projects like gas pipelines and irrigation for food-bowls, high tech hospital services, entrepreneurial education facilities, as well as flood mitigation works.
The CLP should be asked to give us a detailed list of the long term benefits accruing to the NT population from the allegedly “sensible infrastructure” project investments made by CLP governments in the past (as opposed to the actual overall losses and opportunity costs associated with these projects).
I have in mind the massive amounts of public funds (many billions in today’s dollar value) misspent by the CLP, in the ’80s and ’90s, in the name of “creating activity” and “turning to private development projects to help maintain and stimulate activity”.
All the CLP lads – Porky and Ian and Steve and Marshall and Shane and Dennis – touted these short-term fixes that were really long term liabilities, claiming they “will benefit people of the Territory for decades to come”.
Those irresponsible CLP governments repeatedly sank Canberra’s generous capital and recurrent grants, which the NT received from the Commonwealth in the name of “fiscal equalisation”, into sinkholes and revenue-losers like the over-ambitious casinos, resorts, luxury hotels, convention centres and other ego trips and fantasies entertained by Chief Ministers past using taxpayers’ dollars in the first 23 years of NT self-government. They could not resist pandering to the big end of the business community.
The projects were generally nice little earners for certain CLP Silver Circle members and their cronies, who participated in their construction and subsidised management and operations; but the taxpayers ultimately lost out in a big way when the grand plans proved to be more based on wishful thinking than sound business planning, and were predictably sold off at hugely discounted rates to other Silver Circle members and their interstate and overseas mates.
Most of those highly generous Commonwealth grants had been calculated to cover the extra costs of providing adequate all-weather outback roads and airstrips, and decent housing and health and education and child welfare and policing and job creation projects and training for remote communities.
As a result of this CLP misspending, we are now left still with a much bigger challenge with outback infrastructure and housing, and a growing social disaster, in the remote communities than would have been the case if the money had been invested properly in their development then.
Excuse my cynicism, but the Territory air smells strongly of another bout of this same CLP disease, this time focused on imagined booms in fracking, mining, high-rolling foreign students and cancer patients, and delusional “food bowls for Asia”, all requiring government subsidies to private entities, whose principals will happen to be members or mates of the CLP.
And soon we will no doubt hear that the NT too, like WA and SA, has to “close” services for a host of remote communities because they are allegedly too costly for the poor NTG to maintain.
Instead of wild goose chases in very risky food bowls and other such fantasies, let’s put what funds are available into collaborative partnerships and basic long-term investments that will benefit our citizens who are in real need, such as good government services, solid roads and other badly needed social and physical infrastructure.
Let the big end of town, the frackers and developers, fend for themselves in the big world of business, and let the NT government get on with the basic business of assisting its most vulnerable citizens to look after themselves and the wellbeing of their children.
Sensible infrastructure for the NT?
GUEST COMMENT by BOB DURNAN