Given that the Territory's two most powerful men were in the room, question time at the Chamber of Commerce Budget luncheon yesterday was a sedate affair. The most prickly query came from a builder, Paul, who asked Treasurer Dave Tollner why the government was negotiating with an interstate firm about the $10m redevelopment of the old police housing in Allchurch Street. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. PHOTO: The Chamber of Commerce Budget luncheon yesterday. In the foreground is Chief Minister Adam Giles.
JOHN ELFERINK: "How are we to deal with the $5.5 billion projected debt left to us by Labor?"
It's time again for a treasurer to perform the Northern Territory's annual miracle: achieving so little with so much.
Prepped by all the hand wringing about black holes, the public is fearing the worst. Savage Power Water Corporation (PWC) hikes have already given a taste of what may be ahead.
Yet the NT, with less than 1% of Australia's population, gets 5.4% of the nation's GST. More than half the NT Budget, $2.7b, is from the GST. The Feds are also kicking in $3.4 billion over 10 years through Stronger Futures.
Add to that the millions in Federal welfare payments, and massive funding to NGOs performing – some poorly – state and local government-like functions, and we have an administration awash in public money. ERWIN CHLANDA comments. "How are we to deal with the $5.5 billion projected debt left to us by Labor?" asks government frontbencher John Elferink in reply.
PHOTO: Part of the new Alice Springs power station at Brewer Estate – an expenditure of the "black hole" Power Water Corporation.
Mining vs the rest isn't the only two-speed economy scenario in Australia: The Northern Territory has one, too.
Here it is Darwin vs the rest, and the numbers are alarming. Reviving the erstwhile expansive market gardens on Aboriginal communities, such as the Ali Curung watermelon plantation (pictured), could be one way of boosting productivity, says Member for MacDonnell Alison Anderson. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
Central Australia is getting $40m in new capital works spending in the Territory's 2012-13 Budget.
This is not counting re-votes from previous Budgets.
The Centre's slice is just 3% of what Treasurer Delia Lawrie describes as "a huge $1.3 billion infrastructure investment across the emergency services, education, health, roads, corrections and housing sectors".
A quarter – $10m – of Central Australia's new allocations will be spent on the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (at left, Google Earth), $5m on the Alice hospital and $5m on the Mereenie road, the Red Centre Way.
Meanwhile the Opposition says Territorians will pay in excess of $1b in interest repayments "as a result of the Labor Government’s failure to reign in debt".
Peter Solly, General Manager Tourism Central Australia, says the Budget "recognised the importance of providing additional funding to the tourism sector to stimulate demand and support the industry in response to the Global Financial Crisis [but] the real value of base funding to the tourism sector has not kept up with inflation".