By OSCAR PERRI
Yesterday’s Federal Budget promises little change for the lives of Central Australians aside from a continuation of upgrade work on the Stuart Highway, although there is little confidence in the project.
The Budget includes $400m for road infrastructure in the Territory, with $173.6m going towards key gas industry road upgrades between Tennant Creek and Darwin, supporting the government’s “gas led recovery”.
A further $150m has been put to upgrades for priority sections of the Stuart, Victoria and Barkly Highways. The Federal Department of Infrastructure has scheduled construction for both projects to start in 2023. $77.1m has been allocated to local road and community infrastructure projects and road safety projects across the Territory.
The investments are in line with those dished out to other states and Territories, by population and economy, but there is doubt from both NT Senators as to whether the projects will actually be completed.
“The Prime Minister and this government have form in promising huge amounts of money and never delivering,” says Labor’s Malarndirri McCarthy
“We only need to look at the Tanami Road and the Outback Highway and ask, well where is that at?
“There were substantial funds back in the 2018-19 Budget for the central Arnhem highway, we haven’t seen that.
“So when the Federal government says there’s so many millions going into roads in the Northern Territory, we know it’s not going to happen for at least three or four years, if ever.”
Senator McCarthy says that there is much that needs funding for Central Australia in the short term, such as housing in rural areas, and more investment in roads in remote communities.
CLP Northern Territory Senator Sam McMahon has preemptively put blame for a slower delivery of the Budget’s infrastructure projects on the shoulders of the NT Government.
She says that the Gunner government need to enact “proactive planning” measures for infrastructure development, or risk a drop in the rate of funding that the NT receives.
“The Territory Labor Government has been hopeless at spending previous Federal government funding and I have no confidence it will be any better this time,” Senator McMahon said in a media release.
Senator McCarthy dismisses the announcement as an election Budget, saying it has little relevance to Australians generally due to the long forecasting of much of the funding.
“This delivers little for Central Australia, and it certainly delivers a lot of confusion around what it’s going to do in regards to the Community Development Program,” she says.
“And there are many people around Central Australia who are on CDP, and there are many organisations in Central Australia who run CDP, then there is no detail as to what is going on there.
“I will be interrogating this Budget in the Senate Estimates in just over a week’s time, and I will be asking very many questions as to what is going to happen for Central Australians.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese will be presenting the Federal Opposition’s alternative Budget tomorrow night, which Senator McCarthy says presents a better outlook for Territorians.