A bones-led recovery?


p2429 (1632) Alcoota excavating 450COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Maybe we just aren’t lucky with Chief Ministers.
Adam Giles is slinking away after a final act of contempt for his erstwhile constituents – the disgraceful performance in front of the Royal Commission which he had set up at massive taxpayers’ expense.
And now we have Michael Gunner, who doesn’t understand that one can’t, with impunity, spend money one doesn’t have.
In little more than one eighth of his term he has managed to plunge the Territory into a record deficit, $1.3b, nearly one quarter of our overblown Budget, with no discernible policies about how this spend will have ongoing benefit.
He was spending big although it had been known for months that the NT’s GST share would drop dramatically in the wake of the mining boom in WA had turned into a bust.
Expressed as charitably as possible, Mr Gunner is grappling with the distinction between good debt and bad.
Good debt – let’s call it GD – is an investment that will, with a great degree of certainty, earn more money than has been borrowed, so principal and interest can be repaid in a defined and acceptable time frame, and the assets created continue to earn money and achieve jobs and growth.
Then we have Bread and Circuses, gladiators doing their stuff in the Colosseum of the ancient Rome, staged by emperors who want to please or shut up their restive masses. Let’s call that B&C.
GD, in our context, would be enhancing access to our magnificent natural environment in which millions of people around the world could play and rest (if we could only get the message right that we have these treasures in spades).
The Mereenie Loop is definitely GD, but that road is nearly finished. What next on that front, Mr Gunner?
Bricks and mortar are his mantra. Have a look at what that did for Mr Giles.
Building stuff that we don’t need just to keep builders and tradies happy is definitely not GD unless you put it into the West or East MacDonnells, for example, cranking up the almost limitless potential of our tourist industry. But there is barely a trace of that in the Budget.
Splashing ersatz culture  onto a mountain range, spending $6m plus on yet more sporting facilities and blowing millions on tyre burn-outs while feeding a fortune to interstate organising companies: That is pure B&C.
With the Finke Desert Race our motor sports enthusiasts are proving, year after year, that they are eminently capable of organising their own fun, while attracting to town a huge number of visitors and their money, for a long weekend.
But the government needs to invest our money where it produces year-round income – foremost our nature parks. And this needs to be done professionally, not as knee-jerk reactions.
Take the $20m “to revitalise the Alice Springs CBD”. Why $20m? Why not $1m or $100m? Re-developing what and how?
Where is the carefully crafted cost-benefit study, with input from the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Central Australia, for example, and based on community consultation?
Remember the last Mall upgrade – $5m mostly wasted.
Dale Wakefield, Mr Gunner’s sole front-bencher in The Centre, is less than helpful: “Government will work closely with the Alice Springs community to identify and plan and deliver key projects.”
p2429 (1632) Alcoota Croc skull 300Where is the cost-benefit analysis of shifting mega fauna bones (pictured) into empty Mall retail space?
Melissa Durston, spokeswoman for the Alice Plaza, says the shopping centre would be more than happy to discuss hosting the display.
“We have not been approached as yet,” she says.
“This may be a fantastic opportunity and we are always keen to support the community whenever possible.”
The world’s disenchantment with traditional politics has yet to reach the Good Old Alice.
While Trump, Brexit, Frexit (France), Nexit (Netherlands) and two outsiders vying for the French presidency and lots more has the off-the-shelf pollies in a tizzy elsewhere, we’re still looking for Bib and Bub (whether Labor of CLP) to use the avalanche of money from Canberra to the benefit of the general population.
Time to turn our top-down system into a bottom-up one. That would mean our town lobbies getting a lot more aggressive, and for the Man and Woman In The Street to become much better informed so they can put the fear of God – or more better – of election defeat into our Members of Parliament.


  1. Sad to say the time has come to hand the Territory back to Canberra. All is lost.


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