**CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY**
Mr Speaker, this is not the Territory I know and love. This is not the Territory I grew up in. And it does not have to be the Territory of the future. Yesterday’s budget was an opportunity for Territory Labor to deliver on the cries for change, the cries for help from a community desperate to be safe, but again that change did not come.
Despite 4 Territorians losing their lives to crime this year, despite 7 stabbings in 8 weeks, and countless others assaulted, the word crime was only mentioned once in the Treasurers budget speech. There was no flagship announcement on police resourcing or strengthening laws. Community safety barely rated a mention. Because community safety is not something Labor speak about, it is not something they fight for. They have again shown through their actions that Labor put the rights of offenders above the rights of people to be safe. Sifat was brutally attacked as he slept in his bed. In his house. If Labor can’t keep us safe at home, then where are Territorians safe? This budget needed to be a community safety budget, but it isn’t.
I stood in this building a year ago when the Territory’s debt was at an all- time high of $7.6 billion, crime had sky rocketed, cost of living rising, and the economy had more than slowed —people were leaving theTerritory.
Micheal Gunner fictitiously proclaimed as he quit ‘We were heading back to an operating surplus by 2024. Heading back to black’. Well yesterday’s budget showed that the pipe dream of a budget surplus under Labor is exactly that, a dream.
Despite 7 years of total fiscal and economic mismanagement from Labor, it is truly hard to believe that a year on, I would be reflecting on that as a time when things were better. And yet here we are.
Under Labor the Territory is going backwards.
The March quarter Deloitte Access Economic brief on the Territory shows that the Territory will “experience the weakest economic growth” of any Australian jurisdiction in 2022-23 our economy is going backwards.
The Territory’s Gross State Product is forecast to reduce by 5.1% this year meaning we are further than ever away from Labor’s $40 billion economy by 2030.
• Net debt has grown from a huge $8.2 billion in 2022-23 to a diabolical estimate of $10 billion in 2024-25;
• That is almost $60,000 in debt for every working Territorian;
• Economic growth has declined in 22/23 and own source revenue is expected to decrease over the forward estimates, with mining royalties decreasing by almost $100 million per year by 2025-26;
• Continual deficit spending, including a near-record deficit of $1.1 billion means Territorians are paying $1.3 million in interest repayments each day;
• This is simply unsustainable.
The only thing stopping the floodgates of debt from overtaking the Territory is almost $1 billion in extra GST Revenues this year as compared to 2021-22.
But if the “uncertain” economic climate the Federal Treasurer has outlined causes a recession, we cannot continue to rely solely on GST Revenue to hold the Territory from the brink of insolvency.
Labor is hanging its hat on an increase in GST, but if Australia falls into recession – what is their plan B? There are no savings, there is no back up.
Just weeks ago we had uncertainty in whether the Territory would get its fair share of Federal Defence funding destined for QLD and WA. It was made clear that manufacturing would not be in the Territory. Not to mention that we look set to lose up 300 people when the helicopters are moved to Townsville. If the $8b defence commitment by the Coalition dries up, it will literally be the difference between some Territory tradies being able to feed their families or not. You have not
been able to diversify our economy or deliver projects. And if defence goes, so do jobs.
The cost of Groceries, Fuel, Rent, Mortgages, Insurance and Power Bills have all gone up on Labor’s watch.
In one breath the Treasurer said that Labor would not add to the cost of living pain being felt by Territorians and in the next breath announced that power bills are going up. You are out of touch, out of ideas and just not listening.
Crime continues to have a strong hold over the Territory with Territorians waking up to almost daily reports of serious violent crime, car thefts, ram raids, robberies, assaults, break-ins and destruction.
Business owners are now resorting to sleeping in their shops to defend their own livelihoods. People lock their bedroom doors at night and even our dogs are not safe.
From an economic perspective, in 7 years not one of the 12 major projects handed to Labor by the CLP have been delivered, and in fact the list of failed projects grow, with the luxury hotel, project sea dragon gone, Suncable clinging for life and the ShipLift back out to tender on design. Territorians know that Labor have broken the Territory, but the Chief Minister thinks it’s ‘just wear and tear.’
Last year we saw a quitter’s budget, when Michael Gunner used his budget speech to walk away from the Territory and hand the reigns to his apprentice.
One who was a skilled marketer, but no leader.
What we have seen in the past year is a Fyles Labor Government committed to managing the media, not managing the Territory.
A Labor government determined to rule by press release, always putting politics above people.
A Labor government failing to listen to Territorians who they are elected to serve.
A Labor government with an inexperienced captain that does not have the gumption to fight for our fair share.
The same Labor government that instead of solving the crime crisis that’s decimating our tourism industry, wants to simply throw more money at advertising and ‘market harder.’ $35m in marketing and social media ads cannot cover-up the fact that headlines like ‘No one is even safe inside their home’: Darwin community reacts to horror bashing’ are at every international visitors fingertips.
The strength of the Territory’s economy hinges on the strength of our National and International reputation. And when we have the Vice Chancellor of Charles Darwin University say that he no longer feels comfortable telling international students it is safe to come here, our reputation is in tatters.
Labor’s budget ‘spends harder’ not smarter. It disrespects and disregards the fact – that this is not monopoly money, it is Territorians money, and that you have no right to burden future decades of Territorians because you are simply not up for the job.
Chief Minister, you cannot spend your way out of this mess of Labors making, and you should not be making Territorians pay for your failings.
Growing up in the Territory, I knew that being Territorian was special, that I could be anything I wanted to be. I grew up safe and free to enjoy our unique lifestyle. The Territory used to be a place where you could make your own destiny and that being Territory Tough was a badge of honour. To be Territorians, no matter what your background or where you are from, was a source of great pride for all of us. But there is no question, that it is a difficult time to be a Territorian, and that instead of feeling proud of this place, people feel embarrassed. Some have even given up.
But the Territory of today does not have to be the Territory of tomorrow.
Good governments give people choices, the choice to live their life the way they want to, the way they think is best for them and their family.
As cost of living rises and Labor fail to act to alleviate the pain felt in the family budget, they remove choices from Territorians. Because families can’t act like Labor and simple spend more, they have to make sacrifices to balance their budget. It’s the swimming lessons, the footy games, eating out or the family holiday that become the choices that are taken away. Because when it’s more expensive than ever to fill up the car and the grocery basket, something has to give.
Territorians are spending an additional $1,924 per year on groceries.
Fuel prices continue to rise, with a 15.5% increase at the bowser in Darwin this year, almost 18% in Alice Springs.
Rises were almost double that for diesel prices across our remote areas such as the Tiwi Islands and East Arnhem.
Car insurance is up over 22% in Darwin and almost 32% in Alice Springs.
The family car costs more to run here than anywhere else in the country. Territorians have no choice but to drive a car as our public transport network is too unsafe.
In fact Territorians are paying $1,074 more to run their family car, a standard sedan, than in South Australia.
The family home is also costing more, on an average home loan Territorians are having to find an extra $1,164 a year.
Labor’s budget of uncertainty means whether its families, seniors, students or Veterans everyone is worse off.
We also see friends, family and tourists making choices not to come to the Territory, Alice Springs continues to lose major sporting games and national conferences as companies and organisations choose locations where they know their participants will be safe.
Businesses are struggling under the weight of it all. Smashed windows, ram raids, robberies and threats to staff are pushing people to a point where they cannot take it anymore. Declan Laverty was killed while doing his job and the Fyles Governments response was send in work safe. Businesses in Alice Springs are so demoralised by the frequency of attacks, that many aren’t even boarding up broken windows, the chipped glass a constant reminder of the mental and financial scars they carry.
As we come into our peak tourism season the iconic Johnn Johnn’s ice creamery business had to close its doors due to crime, to give his staff a break from the relentless anti-social behaviour they cop day in day out. Johnn said and I quote “it’s not great when you feel like a prisoner in your own city”.
Small business is the backbone of our economy. And we have over 16,000 of them in the Territory. They are the employers, they are the service providers, they are our next door neighbours, our local go-to and they are our friends. Labor is even going as far as to blame our local corner stores for their failed alcohol policy
seeking to shut them down. Local mum and dad businesses that employ locals.
I ask again – how can we have a strong economy and grow our population when law and order is out of control? The answer is, that we can’t.
The Member for Port Darwin said it well when he said “everything is under threat when it comes to our budget position.” How true.
Sadly we have come to expect that from Labor Governments, but here it goes further than hip pocket pain, now our choices are more restricted than ever.
Even the simplest of choices now require careful planning. Is it safe to go to that shopping centre?
What time should I go?
Where do I park my car?
Will it be there when I come back?
Will my son come home from his shift?
Will my son wake up from his sleep?
Territorians used to live life looking forward, now we live our lives looking over our shoulder. That is not a choice that any of us wanted to make, that is a choice that Labor made for us by not to taking action on crime.
When I tell Territorians that we have a $10b in debt they comment that we have nothing to show for it. When Labor came to power 7 years ago our debt was just $1.8b. You have been reckless, wasteful and irresponsible with Territorians money. Just look at the careless way the Chief Minister ignores
the multi-million dollars in damage to the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility. She doesn’t know the damage, hasn’t seen the damage, doesn’t watch the news about the damage and has not even asked how much it is going to cost. That is not your money Chief Minister – and every dollar you spend repairing that facility is money that could have gone into supporting our police, our hospitals, our schools.
Waste adds up. We have a $3.3m shadeless shade structure and another one on the way. $380,000 was spent for each and every electronic road sign across the Territory which don’t even tell drivers when there is an accident ahead. $20m on an above ground underground car park. Blow outs by $100m on projects like the Tiger Brennan Overpass.
You paid $35m to youth offenders in compensation for their time in prison without even requiring them to pay damages to their victims!
Governments cannot deliver the basic services Territorians deserve and expect when we are broke. And that is why you are not making the important investments needed into remote housing, police, nurse and teacher accommodation, education, roads and essential services. The figures being spruked by the Treasurer yesterday on her infrastructure spend were laughable and we can’t wait for estimates to reveal the great underspend for this year. Last years was over $400m. The irony is that you spend money when you shouldn’t, and fail to spend the money you should.
Territorians want change. Because Territorians know, that it is only when they vote for change at next year’s election that Territory streets will be safe again.
I am proud to lead a team of committed, dedicated and skilled parliamentarians ready to put the ‘can do’ back into the Territory. Ready to deal with law and order head on, restore community safety, and build the Territory of the future.
The CLP team are a united team of Territorians who bring real life experience to this place professionals, tradies, small business owners, senior public servants, police, and we understand the issues that are facing the Territory.
We are long term Territorians who care about our communities and together we have a Plan to take the Territory forwards.
Today I have two exciting announcements to make about my incredible team.
As we gear up towards next year’s election, I am proud to announce that Bill Yan, the Member for Namatjira will be the CLP Shadow Treasurer and Treasurer in a government I lead. The Member for Namatjira has run large tourism businesses and has had a distinguished career in corrections.
He understands what is needed to tackle crime, bring back our reputation and get the economy back on track both in the cities and in the regions.
Being from Alice Springs, Bill will ensure that unlike under this Labor Government, Alice Springs gets its fair share.
And our team is growing.
Our momentum means that, we continue to attract outstanding candidates who want to join our team and I am excited to welcome Kris Civitarese as the CLP candidate for the seat of Daly to contest the 2024 election.
A former tradie now working in his family’s construction business he is sick of seeing people in the bush miss out and local jobs suffer.
Having served as a Councillor, Kris knows what it takes to stand up for his community and we welcome him as another fierce advocate for a change of Government.
The CLP’s plan, is vision for recovery.
A plan to get the Territory back on track, to make Territorians want to stay and tourists want to visit. To make the Territory an exciting place to invest. To get back to basics and support the fundamental belief that if you want to have a go, you should get a go.
A plan to get us back in the National news for the right reasons. To get us back to being Australia’s larrikin not our nations embarrassment.
The path to recovery is not easy, it requires a solid plan, the fortitude to see it through and strong action.
So we must start by taking real action on crime.
Without the restoration of law and order, we will not push forwards and our society will continue to break down if we do not act now.
My CLP Government would put the rights of Territorians to be safe ahead of the rights of the criminal. That is our iron clad commitment.
Our approach could not be in starker contrast to Labor’s. For when a criminal breaks a window Labor wants to strengthen the window, the would strengthen the law.
We would strengthen the law to ensure that a strong message was sent to every person doing the wrong thing, there will be consequences for your actions.
We would do this by;
- Amending bail properly, so that all violent offenders would start with a position of no bail and make breach of bail condition an offence
- We would empower our police by giving them back the laws they need to do their jobs, like giving police the power they need to deal with problem drunks and deescalate situations before they lead to violence.
- We would impose minimum mandatory sentencing for anyone who assaults a frontline worker
- Compulsory alcohol treatment targeting problem drunks,
- We would break the cycle of reoffending by introducing ‘Sentence to a Skill; where youth offenders would learn a skill while serving their time so on release they have a purpose and are job ready.
- We would immediately put youth justice back in corrections where it belongs because the Department of Corrections is best placed to correct the behaviour plaguing our towns. Removing youth justice from Territory Families, would free up Territory Families to focus on the care and protection of children.
- We will create truancy officers to target kids not attending school and hold parents accountable
- Scrap the minimum floor price which anecdotally pushes people to hard spirits and review the Banned Drinkers Register
- We will make Ram Raids a separate offence to send a clear message to offenders that they will be dealt with under the full force of the law
- We will not raise the age of criminal responsibility and instead hold everyone accountable for their actions no matter what the age
- Under a CLP Government the care and protection of children would be a priority. We believe a child belongs with the family where they are happy healthy and safe and unlike those opposite are not driven be ideology that prevents the best decision in the interests of a child being made.
- Our government would see reparations paid to victims of crime by offenders – if you cannot pay compensation you will face mandatory community service.
- And we would ensure that funding is spent where it needs to be by conducting a full audit of all services who have the responsibility of action on anti-social behaviour, public drunkenness, social order, youth and family engagement.
- As chief minister I would hold the police portfolio so that community safety and a strong police force are always the first issue on my mind.
We must back the people who pull on the blue uniform every single day and leave their family to go and protect ours. I can promise our police that under a government I lead you will know that we back the blue. We will provide the mental health, wellbeing support you need, we will reform the destructive police disciplinary system and we will drive down crime.
The meagre additions $2m of Territory money put into the police budget is no match for the enormity of the task ahead of our police. 97% of our police are right in believing that this Labor Government do not support them.
Our economic policies are founded on getting back to basics and playing to our natural strengths.
Under a CLP Government I lead, we will ensure that the economic, social and environmental opportunities in the regions are supported to progress efficiently and sustainably.
We will establish the Office of the Territory Coordinator to fastrack and facilitate investment. This system will revolutionise how projects are supported and delivered in the Territory. It represents a major change to how business is done. It is exciting, and different, but the CLP is not afraid to drive the Territory forward and knows that we have to be smarter, more innovative and ready to embrace new ideas if we are going to give the economy the shot in the arm it needs. The Territory Coordinator is a significant policy platform. It will be a Territory first.
The Territory Coordinator will see the removal of major projects from Government into a standalone entity that can FastTrack and facilitate investment. The Territory Coordinator can designate projects of significant and ensure that projects are championed from start to finish. Step in rights on decision making timeframes and approval processes will serve as an important safeguard from red tape and create greater transparency and accountability in the project process.
What it means in practical terms is that Territorians can have great confidence that when my government says the Territory is open for business, we are backed up by an independent system that withstands the test of integrity, independence and efficiency. Having already drafted the legislation we will waste no time in making certainty the cornerstone of my government.
Another vital, transformational and critical part of our economic plan for the Territory is the Approvals FastTrack Taskforce. This Taskforce will be established immediately and within 6 months, I will present a list of red tape to be repealed in parliament. The Approvals FastTrack Taskforce will be made up of the private sector supported by the public service, who together will work through removing the onerous and unnecessary burdens to doing business in the Territory. This
change will benefit thousands of Territorians, from the sole operator who wants to start a stall at the markets, to a major Territory business seeking efficiency and certainty, we will have you covered. Because a government I lead is not about telling Territorians why they can’t achieve their dreams, telling Territorians all the reasons why their dreams are too hard, too complex, too long to work through. My CLP team is focussed on ensuring our public service works together with Territorians wanting to have a go, by supporting their dreams and aspirations for the future.
My CLP Government will also undertake the ambitious but critical step of reducing all decision making timeframes across government by 50%. It cannot be underestimated the impact a more efficient government will have on our ability to attract investment, send the message that we are open for business and drive business confidence. We need to bring excitement back to the Territory about what it means to take that leap to invest here. Again, every single Territorian will benefit from this policy because it is solely focussed on making your experience with Government minimal and efficient. That means we want to give you more time to do the things you love to do by halving your wait time from everything as small as how long you line up at the MVR to renew your license, to the time it takes to process a mining exploration license. In Western Australia it takes about 286 days for a mine to get an exploration licence but here in the Territory it takes over four years.
There is no legitimate reason for that delay.
We want Territorians to be out enjoying our unique Territory lifestyle, spending time with their families, investing more energy into growing their business, instead of being buried in processes that don’t support a better life for everyone.
Our mining industry needs support, and I am proud to see that just a couple of weeks ago Labor finally conceded that its world first, world worst hybrid mining tax is finally biting the dust. But the damage it has caused since 2018 is profound. The CLP’s policy of an ad volorem mining tax regime, a fair and simple taxation system that guarantees Territorians and miners that the community will benefit from every single ounce pulled out of the ground, makes perfect sense. Suffice to say, Labor has copied it, fallen on its sword and announced that it will follow the lead of the CLP on mining tax.
There is no question in my mind, that the mining, agriculture and onshore gas industries are the key industries in the Territory that are going to create real jobs on country. That means jobs close to communities. If I have the privilege of being able to drive half an hour to get to work then why shouldn’t Aboriginal Territorians living in remote communities have access to the same. The answer is that they can under a government I lead because we will work with communities to ensure that they are there, at the table, understanding and shepherding opportunities to benefit people in the bush. Just like the watermelon farm near Ali Curung, the opportunities to produce food, jobs, wealth, industry, economies and hope are at our doorstep.
Middle Arm will go from being a confused plot of land under Labor to an area in our harbour that is fully connected by rail, road, gas and water pipelines, where environmental approvals are advanced and ready for investment.
We will review payroll tax which is a tax on jobs.
And there will be no land tax under a government I lead.
Our pristine environment will be cherished and protected by comprehensively dealing with gamba grass management which is choking our national parks. We will back people who invest in solar by delivering our Solar Battery Bonus Scheme which doubles the battery bonus to $12,000 to get Territorians off the grid. Unlike
Labor, we won’t punish Territorians who have invested in solar and will double the feed- in-tariff during peak times putting more money back in your pocket and rewarding your contribution to our environment.
We will protect and back our unique lifestyle by fighting for recreational fishos to have greater access to fishing, support our hunters who have been let down by a Labor government who promised a new recreational hunting reserve and have delivered nothing. We will do that job, because we understand how important lifestyle is to Territorians.
We will support our public service and grow our own. An important message to send to Territorians is that you will be supported, given opportunities for professional development and upskilling. We want to see our vibrant public service feel supported through clearer leadership chains, with strong and decisive Ministerial visions and an excitement to get the Territory moving in the right direction. The CLP can’t deliver on its vision for a stronger, safer Territory without you by our side, and we know that together, we can achieve great things. And unlike under Labor, your jobs are safe with the CLP, there will be no public service pay freezes and we will not leave our police, firies, nurses, teachers, and corrections officers out in the cold.
By addressing crime and not wasting taxpayer money on budget blowouts and PR disasters we will be able to direct funds where they are needed in our key services.
Last week a code yellow was called for Darwin and Palmerston Hospitals, the second for this year. Alice Springs hospital continues to be understaffed by up to 130 full time staff at any given time. This is not a healthy health system. This is a system dealing with increased physical attacks, worker shortages and funding gaps.
The CLP will channel investment into hospitals, mental health facilities and alcohol rehabilitation and we’ll work to ensure the right mix of private and public facilities. We will ensure there are more bush clinics for treatment like dialysis which means those who need it don’t have to travel to town for treatment.
Under the CLP Territorians can be certain that healthy happy safe families will be our priority.
I want to end by thanking every single frontline worker that goes to work each day now, in the toughest of conditions. They face battles every day to help us when we need them.
We honour you, we need you and we have your back.
Our plan is a way forward where Territorians can get back to enjoying the things they love, our incredible lifestyle and opportunity. A plan where we once again look forward to the future and can live knowing that this is the place where we can and want to safely raise our kids.
Only the CLP will take back control of our streets, rebuild our reputation and get our economy moving forwards again.