INFRASTRUCTURE PROMISES ARE PIE-IN-THE-SKY FROM A GOVERNMENT THAT DOESN’T DELIVER
Last week’s budget was not a budget for the Northern Territory. The Territory is once again being left behind by this Government.
Only one per cent of the infrastructure funds for the Northern Territory announced in Tuesday’s budget will be spent in the next four years.
That amounts to just $4 million for new infrastructure projects in the Territory over the next four years.
$4 million over four years is about one kilometre a year of roads for the NT, which is one-sixth of the Australian continent.
The NT can feed most of our near neighbours, can produce more renewable energy we can use, and is a key location for our national defence. So one kilometre a year isn’t really going to cut it.
That means 99 per cent of new funding for the Territory is actually beyond the forward estimates. That could be three elections away.
This is a budget commitment which means absolutely nothing. It’s just a fantasy.
99 per cent -- no other state or territory has that much funding withheld to beyond the forward estimates! That’s an utterly shameful figure, and an appalling outcome of this budget.
When I asked the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to confirm that this was indeed the case, he couldn’t give a direct answer. He started to talk about old spending. He even started to talk about defence spending. His answer was so unclear that he was pulled up twice on the question of relevance. That’s pretty extraordinary.
A Government that has been so cocky and confident in spinning this budget, but can’t give a straight answer on funding for the Territory. I would have thought budget questions such as how much money and when will it be spent were pretty straightforward.
The feedback from home has been a lot clearer.
Louise Bilato, the Executive Officer of the NT Roads and Transport Association said:
"It's the Commonwealth's responsibility to maintain and upgrade the National Highway Network, and yes, it's unfortunate, that $150 million over seven years commencing in 2024 isn’t really an exciting conversation for the Road Transport Industry.”
Glenn Hingley from Tourism Top End said that he was looking for more detail on support to First Nations people to create futures in tourism.
It seems that Parks Australia have lost $2 million in the budget.
I have been told that the “operating budget” for Parks Australia and Kakadu National Park have been cut. I know that Tourism Top End also want to see operating funds there to increase.
Some have asked me why I keep raising Kakadu. There’s a few reasons: The Federal Government announced $216m in capital expenditure in 2019. That was two years ago, but the funds are yet to flow.
I remember that particular announcement, because that was when the Prime Minister rushed to Kakadu to get ahead of Labor’s announcement.
I can’t blame him – Kakadu makes for a gorgeous backdrop for a photo op. It’s just too bad that a photo op was all this seems to be – because we’re certainly not seeing any follow-up.
In the Top End, we’re extremely proud of Kakadu. It’s one of Australia’s greatest and most legendary national parks. We want to show it off in all its majesty, with good facilities, amenities, and access.
Tourism operators and other businesses in my electorate depend heavily on the tourists that come to see Kakadu via Darwin. This is one of the most important agenda items for Northern Australia, not just the Top End.
Proper funding for Kakadu is an issue beyond tourism and industry too, because it goes to the social fabric of our communities, supporting culture and creating jobs.
And as well as infrastructure funding that has been promised, there is also a big need to increase operational funds which are vital to achieve the countless benefits Kakadu gives to Territorians and Australians.
It is a very big deal. And this shameful situation must be rectified.
I call on the Government to immediately clarify when the 99% of infrastructure funding for the Northern Territory will be spent, and when.
Otherwise, this just another “sounds good” announcement with very tricky terms and conditions in the fine print.
If the Government can’t tell Territorians this, then at least we’ll know exactly where we stand – at the bottom of the heap.
Luke Gosling is the Federal Member for Solomon and a former Army Officer.
Above image: Shutterstock 572362216