I rise to speak about the 2017 appropriations bill.
I come from the region of East Arnhem Land….. This region has contributed millions upon millions to the Northern Territory Economy for many decades.
Many in my region wonder if we get an equal return for that input. We often wonder if we would be better off separate from Darwin based governance….. This is a question worth asking, and of course a question worth waiting for an answer…..
But we have already waited more than 35 years.
This budget does not answer my question. There is nothing in it that sticks out and says yes there is advantage….. There is nothing in it that immediately says advancement….. However in a situation that is reported as difficult economic times we can see ongoing basic service provision…., this I support.
We do not want panicked reactions.
I am glad that the government has not reacted like the opposition.
The answer to economic difficulty is not to throw away caution and run from one problem into another….. The opposition yesterday made it clear that they want to improve cash flow by fast tracking fracking…. I don’t support this….. I support the Labors moderate approach….. Economic develop needs to be wise so it does not cost our children…., but the opposition talks about money debts and forgets environmental damage is a more costly debt!
Having said this, this budget lacks sense when it claims that infrastructure spending will improve jobs for Territorians. The proposed type of infrastructure spending has always led to serving fly-in-fly out Territorians….. Make your money and leave types….. This proposed building agenda may improve cash flow but why will it create jobs for live and die here Territorians, especially for long term work.
Local Territorians are the backbone of sustainable economic development in the NT, they must be supported.
I am also concerned that while Darwin receives money for things like improvements to the mall, a new museum and development of the Barneson Boulevard, basic infrastructure in our region will be neglected. I would be happy to be proven wrong about this, but our regions are grossly under developed.
In East Arnhem Land we need basic infrastructure like good reliable roads….. Roads that will service the basic connections between our regions towns and villages….. This is infrastructure that will directly lower cost of living and almost automatically improve enterprise opportunities.
Our region has a stable population and is growing. The little business outcomes, and a few big business outcomes will count enormously. Roads are an asset that supports both big and little business creation.
Yesterday in reply to my question about the Central Arnhem Highway the Minister for Infrastructure invoked a “10-year infrastructure plan” that would include the Central Arnhem Highway….. I am worried that the supplied 500 thousand dollars for maintenance of this road will not be enough for the coming financial year,….. but I am even more concerned that this road is not forgotten so that major improvements are continued year in year out until it is sealed from at least Gove to Raminginging-….. so that our region has basic connection.
I note that the Government has offered money for improved renal services….. The way this money is used will provide the success….. Considering we need more not the same facilities the destruction of one renal facility in Nightcliff only to replace it…. this may not be the best use of money…..
I also prefer that services are de-centralised so that people are not forced to live in Darwin. We need full renal services in regional hospitals.
Once people are sucked into Darwin, they will soon be followed by family attempting to stay close. This de-stabilisation of family life makes many challenges and problems.
The Darwin centralisation of Health is a bad policy. It must be a large cost to travel patients back and forward from Darwin….., it certainly disadvantages patients and family by loss of income.
I want to encourage the Government to go forward with the banned drinkers register. This has social and economic benefit for the whole of the NT.
Like the case for the Banned Drinkers Register, economic measurement should be holistic. Education is like that. Education spending in our region is needed and required, but it is not effective without the right educational program.
Without Bilingual education the Government is basically throwing money away….. It is internationally recognised that in our circumstance, where children speak an Indigenous language at home, Bilingual education will produce not only the best learning outcomes, but also the best budgetary and economic returns.
It is not only racist to deny Bilingual education but it is economically dull-minded.
Another example of welcomed spending in this budget, but with policy questions is the remote housing project.
Housing spending is absolutely required, and with proper management these houses will be an ongoing asset to the NT government…. However, while homelands offer better health, better education and more likelihood of enterprise, it not good to be encouraging more and more people to live in towns.
Policing is also like this….. Policing is a major expenditure in our region,…. But does it offer returns socially and economically?
It costs millions to place police in our region and it costs more for those arrested to go through court…… It then costs more to imprison the people…. And all that doesn’t save one cent because when people get out of jail they just do it again… Also imprisonment breaks up families or leaves families uncared-for….. This just makes a new generation of people ready for jail.
We need to stop policing by outsiders and return conflict resolution and law enforcement to our authorities….. I want to say this clearly, non of the programs budgeted to reduce crime or imprisonment, or family violence, will have strong outcomes if they are run by NT Government agencies….. They must be run by Yolngu authorities.
The same principle applies to support of families and children, local authority is essential….. Also this is why I am glad that the government is putting some money toward the development of their local authority policy.
I note that money has been cut from Family support services in our region reducing this level from 4.3 million this year to 2.5 million in the coming year. This is a problem considering Child Removal issues I have already raised in this parliament.
Finally I commend the special expenditure on the Milingimbi airstrip and the safe house in Galiwinku.
Overall the budget does not provide advancement for my region. It is a budget of basic services….. While the government is talking about economic stimulus, this is all pointed toward Darwin….. This budget shows no belief in locals to enhance the economy. It certainly does not show belief in our region.
While the government is talking about lowering costs of living and raising job opportunity in Darwin, East Arnhem Land makes up more than 5% of the NT population and has some of the highest living costs in the Northern Territory….. Why is no attention being given to our stronger need?
If one thing was done for our advancement it is the ongoing improvement of the Central Arnhem Highway between Nhulunbuy and Ramingining….. This will lower living costs automatically due to travel expenses….. (thousands of dollars per family can be saved here)…., but it will also stimulate the network between Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Gapuwiyak, Galiwinku, Ramingining, Milingimbi and all the homelands in between….. It would also better connect us with Maningrida.
Improvement to the Central Arnhem Highway will connect the technical skills of Nhulunbuy with the primary industry potential of homelands…. It will improve immediately the viability of the developing tourism industry….. It will also create a market base for the sale and resale of consumer goods by small business…..
As I have said I agree with the governments agenda to maintain basic services despite the federal governments cut in our GST revenue…., I have challenged some of the policy directions of those allocations which will require more dialogue,…. but I want to strongly put to the government our regions need for economic related stimulus that benefits locals….. This cannot be ignored for the long term viability of the Northern Territory…. And this is especially the case in consideration of our regions decades of input into the NT economy….
We must see advantage to our relationship with Darwin and the NT Government.