By ERWIN CHLANDA
Government town planning decisions are what the public is most likely to be putting before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) currently being set up.
That is the view of the Member for Namatjira, Chansey Paech (pictured), who has been outspoken about the misuse of rural residential land in his electorate, and the “creeping industrialisation” of blocks south of The Gap.
He says Independent Member for Goyder, Kezia Purick, has similar problems in the Top End and he supports her move last year for a review of the planning system.
“She might consider that planning matters are the kind of issues that could be put before an ICAC,” he says.
Why can’t the Ombudsman deal with those problems?
“ICAC is a level higher than the Ombudsman,” says Mr Paech.
“The difference is that ICAC will have similar kinds of powers which police have.
“ICAC will have powers to enter government premises without warrants, and to compel any person to attend and give evidence.
“It will also administer a whistle-blower protection scheme, which will allow it to protect important sources of information.
“I would imagine that the Ombudsman can refer matters of government corruption to the ICAC for investigation, and it can investigate serious breaches of public trust that are not technically offences.
“ICAC will also be able to investigate corrupt conduct where private businesses or individuals are contracted to perform government functions, or granted government money.”
Mr Paech says the presence of ICAC will make the public feel comfortable about having “an independent body looking at taxpayers’ money being spent properly and not being misused.”
Meanwhile he says no new projects were raised when the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia met in Alice Springs yesterday, and the “same old, same old” ideas appear not to have progressed significantly.
“These are matters which we as Central Australians know about and have been pushing for – for a long time,” he says.
Mr Paech sat in on the hearing as an observer.
He says Mayor Damien Ryan and Tourism Central Australia CEO Stephen Schwer raised the National Indigenous Art Gallery (on which Mr Paech is the enthusiastic Assistant Minister ) as a tourism driver.
Queensland MHR Warren Entsch, who chairs the committee, asked why that centre should not be in Cairns, which he represents.
Mr Paech says the hearing was told the $100m attraction would be “a nice way to link in with the Outback Way” that connects Queensland with WA, via Alice Springs and the megafauna attractions in the Winton region.
There was discussion about infrastructure which Alice Springs would need to support a growing tourism industry – but again no substantial new projects were raised.
“The North Australia Infrastructure Facility would be an ideal way to generate funding support for major tourism infrastructure in the Centre. I hope the Federal Government is considering projects in the Northern Territory seriously and not taking our jurisdiction for granted.”
He says the lack of state and ongoing Federal funding to regional tourism operators was a barrier. Federal Assistance Grants were frequently targeted at large scale operators and often excluded small business whose turnover was under $1m.
“I believe that a major key to the Northern Territory’s economic future is in economic development in the bush.”
Mayor Ryan said roads, water and sewage facilities were under ongoing review, says Mr Paech, and Mr Schwer claimed the 300GB monthly limit on data provided by satellite-based NBN to tourism accommodation is insufficient.
Mr Schwer raised the issue at a recent IT forum and was told by NBN spokeswoman Jill Bottrall that the Skymuster satellite service provides a new facility across all of rural and remote Australia, and that the total capacity covering the entire nation is obviously limited.
She said no doubt in the future, new satellites will be launched to expand capacity.
ICAC likely to target town planning decisions: Paech
By ERWIN CHLANDA