By ERWIN CHLANDA
NT Budget 2015-16 is getting thumbs up from the town council, NT Shelter and the government’s Tourism NT, while teachers and the Labor Party attack drops in some areas of education spending.
The town council says it “delivers for our community” with Mayor Damien Ryan referring to a $7.5m Sadadeen Road bypass project improving access to Mount Johns Valley; a $3m to upgrade the Larapinta Drive / Lovegrove Drive intersection; $1.5m for the construction of a new off-street school bus interchange and $500,000 for the extension of the existing Stuart Highway cycle path to Kilgariff.
Mayor Ryan describes as “exciting” the planned athletic track and field facility, motor sport upgrades and a $2m capital grant to upgrade netball facilities.
Not surprisingly Labor doesn’t like the Budget, saying it “slashes education for the third year in a row … pre-schools and primary schools have been cut” and the government “have spent $6 million less in primary health care”.
New Opposition Leader Michael Gunner (pictured above right) makes no reference in his Budget Reply Speech today of the Central Australian Health Service being allocated $38m for capital works, including $34m to be spent in Alice Springs, principally on the hospital.
Regrettably, the president of the local Labor Party branch, Chansey Paech (at left), declined to be interviewed. All we could get from him in response to a request for an interview was: “We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Caucus and Mr Gunner.”
Of course, that caucus doesn’t include any sitting members in Central Australia because Labor doesn’t have any.
Apart from expressing a lot of good intentions if the Opposition makes it into government Mr Gunner says: “The CLP has ripped $82m in real term from Government education since 2012 [and] the latest CLP budget cuts $7.5m from pre schools and cuts $12 million from primary schools.
“We know that health costs rise higher than inflation. You really need to put in around 7% extra every year just to keep pace,” Mr Gunner said in a release ahead of the speech.
“The Government spent $70m on primary health care last year. This year they are budgeting $64m.”
The Australian Education Union NT also attacks the Budget, saying recurring spending on government reduction is down 4% despite higher wages for teachers, while private schools will get 4% more.
By contrast NT Shelter, the peak body for housing and homelessness, welcomes the Budget and its ongoing investment in the Real Housing for Growth initiative.
NT Shelter praises money being allocated for new public housing and the government’s “commitment to remote Indigenous housing through its partnership agreement with the Commonwealth and to remote Indigenous home ownership”.
However, it expressed “disappointment that the First Home Owners Grant remains targeted only to the purchase of new homes”.
Tourism NT says it has “received significant funding with an overall budget $50.4m compared to an estimate of $45.1m in 2014-15. “This includes ongoing additional funding of $8 million for tourism marketing and strategic product initiatives that will help grow a $2.2 billion visitor economy by 2020.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA