CENSURE OF NORTHERN TERRITORY GOVERNMENT
(Tuesday, 12 February 2019)
This extract is taken from the Draft Daily Hansard of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory, and will be subject to further edits by the Hansard Unit before incorporation into the Parliamentary Record.
Territory’s Ranking in CommSec’s State of the State Report
Mr HIGGINS to TREASURER
Under the CLP the Territory was ranked number one on the CommSec’s State of the State reports. On 29 January 2019, Territorians were disgusted to find out that the Territory is now dead last on the CommSec’s State of the State report. Everyone in this House is sick and tired of the excuses being levelled by those people on the other side, blaming everyone else.
Censure of Northern Territory Government
Mr HIGGINS: Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 67, I move that this Assembly censures the government for its inability to address the current economic crisis and for plunging the Territory into financial oblivion.
Ms FYLES (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, we accept the censure.
Mr HIGGINS: Madam Speaker, this is not something we take pleasure in or do lightly. We do not move censures for the quick media grab or the cynical political move. This, right here and now, is a censure of the most serious nature.
Put simply, Labor’s incompetence has led to the end of the Territory as we know it. They have put self‑government at risk. The fiscal situation the Territory is facing is unprecedented and threatens the livelihood, security and freedom of each and every Territorian …
Ms FYLES: A point of order, Madam Speaker! Will the censure be circulated?
Madam SPEAKER: Yes. Can you get the censure motion circulated?
Mr HIGGINS: It has gone, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: It will come directly, minister. Continue, Opposition Leader.
Mr HIGGINS: Madam Speaker, this is unforgiveable. If you doubt the severity of the situation which those opposite tend to do, let us have a look at the cold and hard facts—the facts we people on this side deal with. The Territory’s debt situation as measured in non‑financial public sector net debt, is spiralling out of control.
When the CLP came to office in 2012, we inherited a net debt of $3.5bn and handed back to Labor a net debt of $1.8bn. This is a significant $1.7bn improvement …
Mr HIGGINS: Maybe they want to hear those figures again—they could not hear them over their interjections. When the CLP came to office in 2012, we inherited a net debt of $3.5bn and handed back to Labor a net debt of $1.8bn. This is a significant $1.7bn improvement.
Another fact is the deficit handed to Labor was $78m, as recorded by the Treasurer’s Annual Financial Statement. The deficit is now $1.4bn. That makes an increase of 18 times the $78m in the two years and five months the Labor government has been in power in the NT. It is time for Labor to own up to its role in the devastation of the Territory’s economy and admit it has a problem. It needs to admit it has a problem if it wants to address it. We had a plan to bring the budget back in to surplus and our projections under that plan showed we were on track to deliver a healthier economic outlook.
Our plan for economic development presented a solid structure for securing the Territory’s future. At the time we said the priority opportunities and economic enablers in the strategy aimed to promote a prosperous Northern Territory economy.
This was despite the known likelihood of a reduction in GST receipts and the INPEX construction project winding down. Both of which Labor was well aware of. Knowing this, Labor still promised to deliver a surplus and 14 000 new jobs. Jobs it still keeps talking about.
The Labor government played a small target strategy and its plan amounted to a glossy brochure with a load of rhetoric and promises and very little real action. Nothing seems to have changed.
Then it came to power and undid four years of sound economic and hard work in the space of 18 months. It has been a remarkable feat done via three sharpened prongs: waste and over spending; putting the brakes on industry; and arrogance and denial. It is fair to say that this government is fond of spending and does it very well. In fact, it spends and spends. It has the keys to the Treasury and is not afraid to use them.
In the past two-and-a-half years it has made epic spending decisions and, in fairness they have not all been bad. A fair few of them have been questionable, I can tell you! The examples of waste overspending by this government are endless. That is boundless and endless, isn’t it?
- $800 000 on talking about a new museum at Myilly Point that no one wanted; $800 000 to have a bit of a chin wag
- more than $63 000 on promotional fence wrap and graphically designed boarding around its underground car park. An underground car park that no one wanted
- the $500 000 MyFuel website
- $150 000 on a driverless bus trial. That was a good job creation thing!
- $1.2m on an Economic Summit Series talk fest
- $1m to date for the Alice Springs art gallery and we do not even have a location, let alone an art gallery, but at the same time South Australia are forging ahead with their Indigenous art gallery
- we got a $40m rugby league stadium. $40m is a lot higher than the original estimate. That is to benefit one club and not supported by the other 80%
- we flew dozens of ministers, assistant ministers and staff, as well as public servants to Singapore to have a look at plants
And the best one—I love this one:
- a $40 000 Boundless Possible rocket; $40 000 to put those words on a rocket that did not even get as high as a passenger airplane
- a $50 000 advertisement and crowd sourcing Have Your Say campaign, shopping for ideas on how to build the economy!
These are but a few of the spending mistakes by this government. We have never heard them apologise for squandering tax payers’ money. It may seem like small figures compared to the millions in debt Labor has landed us with, but this is how the waste adds up. Anyone with a credit card debt can tell you that small incremental spending is just as bad as big dollar purchases.
In the past two-and-a-half years this government has worked hard to stymie businesses and industry wherever it can. It has effectively put the brakes on industry.
For example, no one here would deny the fact mining is ‘the’ major private industry of the Northern Territory.
For years we benefited from major mining projects. Our environment has not been devastated, our quality of life has not been destroyed despite the claims of the left. Labor, with their left interest at heart, put the brakes on gas exploration for two long years with their ‘will they or won’t they’ moratorium.
Then they introduced the world’s worst hybrid tax and now they are seriously considering introducing environmental legislation which will create further hurdles for this vitally important industry.
Make no mistake, the proposed changes to the Environment Protection Authority Act will not only empower the Minister with absolute veto on any project, it will allow for potentially frivolous and vexatious action by special interests.
- increase business uncertainty
- are unprecedented, unwise and unnecessary and
- represent a scale of reform that is sweeping at a time when business, investment confidence in the Territory is flagging.
There are currently 17 mineral resource projects worth $6bn and 4 000 jobs that are up in the air. 4 000 jobs that the Chief Minister wants to create, 4 000 of the 14,000 a year he promised. Why are all these up in the air? It is all due to this Labor Government.
They have also introduced a retrograde property tax, just in case you thought commercial investors were not already challenged, along comes Labor with a ‘smack in your face’ tax. We believe in working with business and industry, not against them. Labor clearly has other ideas.
There are other ways this Government is stopping business and investors in the Territory. Think about that $40m investment project headed by Dan Murphy’s. This Labor government literally overnight banned Dan’s from coming to Darwin. There was no consultation on this one, no openness or transparency. The Dan ban was never adequately explained. The Government changed its story over and over, day by day.
Arrogance and denial is also a hallmark of this Labor Government and through their hubris, they are hurting and costing Territorians. They say crime is down and their so-called generational initiatives are working. Try telling that to Jimmy Shu or Elle Kearns or to any number of businesses across the Territory that are broken into and/or vandalised. To the kids whose bikes get stolen or the charity that had its donation tin taken.
One of the saddest things I heard recently in Alice Springs, from a long-term businessman, when I asked him whether crime was an issue he said, ‘To be honest Gary, we’re not talking about it as much lately ‘cause we’re all so used to it. We don’t go out at night and we don’t encourage any visitors to. We expect to come into work and find some sort of damage, it’s just a way of life these days.’
How disappointing. Labor says anyone hurting should apply for an Alcohol Secure grant. What is wrong with this picture? Everything!
Labor are afraid to tackle crime and it is costing Territorians and the Territory dearly. They talk about generational change, what about this generation? They never talk about punishment or atonement. They brag about their massive expenditure on areas such as youth justice and detention but they do not admit they are failing.
Let us have a quick look at that black hole of taxpayer funds, Territory Families. The Territory Families’ minister has been given a carte blanche to turn on the taxpayer hose and point it wherever which-way she chooses in a feeble attempt to address the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children. $229m or thereabouts has been budgeted to address the Commission’s recommendations. However, a year on, little meaningful difference has been made to youth justice or child protection in the Territory.
And don’t get me started on their flubbing of the youth detention facilities. I don’t have enough time to go into that issue! The list is long of this Government’s failure through their arrogance and denial. We are hoping those opposite will realise the Territory cannot continue down this track and take a long hard look at themselves. Stop blaming everyone else and everything else.
Wake up to yourselves!
All the waste, overspending, mismanagement, arrogance and hubris over two and a half years has inevitably lead to this point. When we said in May last year that the Territory was on the road to insolvency, the members opposite scoffed and blasted us.
If you fast forward to December last year, the government tried to quietly release its plan in an interim report for budget repair. The Chief Minister then left town, leaving the Treasurer to take all the hits. The other side may not believe us and say that we are being selective. But, no one should deny the facts in the report.
Significant among them are:
- net debt to revenue is on track to hit an unprecedented, unbelievable and unsustainable 320%—this is in their report.
- the current position is unsustainable
- we are borrowing, on a credit card, to pay wages
- additional and recurrent expenditure has ballooned because of Labor policy changes
- the NT’s debt will be $35.7bn by financial year 2029–30
- the NT’s debt to revenue will be 320% by 2029–30—under the CLP, it got down to 27%. Have a think about that. If they think they do not have a problem, they should look at those two figures.
- That is $5.5m every day in interest.
On top of this, in a section called ‘Next Steps’, the government asked the public for the answers. The public will say, ‘Stop spending’. It is amazing that the Treasury and an independent consultant are issuing a ‘please help’ to ordinary Territorians. How is this leadership?
And apparently, according to the government, we are not in an economic crisis. But wait, there is more. Let us look at other documents and reports.
The NT Chamber of Commerce ran a survey in January to which 615 businesses, employing more than 20 000 local Territorians, responded. Of them, 81% rated the Labor government’s economic management as ‘extremely poor’ or ‘poor’. Exasperated by the lack of action or urgency, the Chamber of Commerce has come up with a sensible five point plan for the government. The five points are:
- acknowledge that the local private sector needs to lead economic growth and act accordingly, cut red and green tape, and speed up government approval processes
- continue to invest in strategic infrastructure, spending allocated money in the year allocated and not pulling money out of the infrastructure fund because it cannot be spent
- tackle crime ,vandalism, and itinerancy issues that are killing local businesses
- the NT Government is to live within its means and streamline the public service
- grow our population by creating real jobs generated by the private sector and industry development
What’s striking is that the Chamber of Commerce is echoing and endorsing everything the opposition has been championing and advocating for almost three years.
The census business confidence index shows that the Labor government has a negative confidence rating among small and medium businesses. In the CommSec State of the States report for the December quarter 2018, the most concerning statistic among the plethora of bad numbers is that the Territory remains in deep recession. We know this by looking outside our doors into the real world. However, the numbers for State Final Demand back this up. The CommSec report shows that trend annual growth for the Territory was -5.6% on the decade average. These are facts, and facts do not lie.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics tell us that the Territory’s jobless rate of 5% is now 27.8% above the 3.91% decade average.
According to the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation’s own figures, since the August 2016 election the size of the construction industry in the Territory has halved. Construction work done is down 32.7% on the decade average.
Then there is the exodus of people from the Territory. Population growth in the Territory is 107.4% lower than the decade average. This is simply a disaster. Worst still is the fact that the last set of numbers from the ABS for the Territory’s population show that there are fewer people living in the Territory now than there were 12 months ago.
Territorians expect their government to deliver for them, to deliver value for money, to be able to keep them safe and above all else to keep the lights on.
As Territorians, we know we do not have all the answers but the evidence on the economy is damning. Report after report tells of more bad news. Family businesses after family businesses are closing.
What will it take for the Chief Minister and government members to use the C word?
The latest regular financial publication we have from Treasury is the Mid-Year Economy Forecast Report, or MYEFO.
MYEFO 2018–19 reaffirms and highlights that budget 2018–19 is a text book lesson in waste and wasted opportunities.
Where are the structural reforms and structural savings? The massive increases in recurrent expenditure we saw in budget 2018–19 have increased yet again in the MYEFO for 2018–19. In fact, policy changes have added $354m more to the Labor debt mountain.
MYEFO 2018–19 and budget 2018–19 financial year 2018–19 and across the forward estimates failed to realise the simple fact—governments cannot deliver what they cannot pay for. Eventually debts have to be paid back. The mid-year economic forecast is the worst ever set of peace time public finances.
The deficit for 2018–19 will increase massively by over $300m to $1.5bn. This Labor government has no plan to ever deliver a surplus.
The years ahead are Labor’s decade of debt.
With debt like $35.7bn our children and their children and their children’s children will be in debt for decades.
Labor is throwing the Territory’s hard earned dollars around like it is Monopoly money and without consequence. It has failed to make the hard and necessary decisions, and in the midst of all of this the only thing that could pull the Chief Minister back from hiking in New Zealand was the need to protect his own job.
The bleak economy, nah, not worth it. Sacking three Labor truth tellers, quickest flight back. But, hey, everyone, nothing to see here, no crisis, no problem and if there is it is all everyone else’s fault. Not ours.
We have outlined the facts and how we have gotten here now let us look at the government’s plan for budget repair. Here it is, the actual action plan for the budget repair—nah, it is a blank page.
I guess in fairness the Chief Minister has said the government is working on it with their consultants. The ever present consultants—so common in the Northern Territory these days.
We say to the government this is not good enough. Given the calamitous state of the Territory’s financial state it is not good enough to have to wait for the budget to find out about savings achieved this financial year and proposed for the outer years.
It is not good enough for the government to adopt a trust me approach when clearly they cannot be trusted. When will this government reign in its spending? When will they admit that they have a spending problem? When will the government stop its addiction to highly paid consultants doing the work the public service should be and are capable of doing? When will the government properly tackle crime in our community?
The majority of the over spend is in recurrent expenditure. This is creating a massive structural deficit. ‘Your’ policy decisions, ‘your’ additional spending has blown out the budget to a historic and unprecedented 1.5 ‘billion’ dollar deficit. When will Labor own up to the fact the Territory is in trouble and in deep recession and it has happened under their watch?
Working Territorians are exasperated and angry.
Angry that this government is willing to put at risk self-government for the sake of propping up the Darwin northern suburbs vote. This lack of political backbone has entrenched and greatly exacerbated the fiscal imbalance in the Territory budget. The Labor government must acknowledge and address the structural deficit inherent in the budget before ever hoping to deliver a fiscal surplus over the forward estimates.
What Territorians want and what we all deserve is strong, clear and effective leadership.
So for this financial abomination and for your abdication of leadership and responsibility, I censure you.
I censure you all for all the Territorians who cannot.
I censure you for the thousands of Territorians who are fed up with government that will not front up.
A censure should be the wake‑up call this government surely needs.
It has been two‑and‑a‑half years of indecision, inaction and lost opportunity.
For this reason, Chief Minister, we censure you and your government.
Mrs FINOCCHIARO (Spillett): Madam Speaker, I too speak to the important censure motion that the opposition has brought to the Chamber. It is on an important issue, the state of the Territory’s finances. The government has seemingly notified people of the financial crisis and then walked away from it.
The Member for Araluen went through the flags in her mind of how this government has been unable to manage the Territory’s finances from day one when they came to government. All of us have those red flags. There is no greater alarm bell than the report that was dropped on the eve of Christmas last year and then walked away from. Unbelievably and months later, we are still yet to hear from government on what their plan is to deal with the financial crisis.
There is no question that it is the number one thing that Territorians are talking about. Territorians who you would bump into and chat about other things, people who would not usually talk to you about budgets or surpluses, are talking about it. A trickle down has happened where Territorians en masse have seen the report and understood that a projected debt of $35bn is incomprehensibly scary and big. The catastrophic impact of this now and in the future is at the forefront of Territorian’s minds.
The conversation on this topic is inescapable. Whether you are popping out to the mall to grab lunch, picking up the kids from school, or down at the shops, people are talking about it. They are genuinely scared of what it means for the future of the Territory. They want to know their government has the courage and leadership to navigate a way out of it.
Yet we continue to hear a deafening and all-pervasive silence. It is unacceptable and not good enough. That is not leadership or what you do at a time when people are so concerned about a problem of a magnitude like this one. Labor seems to be unable to reconcile the fact that it is such a bit problem. The first note I made in the censure was laughter at the comment that the state of the fiscal outlook threatened self‑government. There was this roar of laughter from the government—a cacophony of noise—that that statement was so outrageous …
Mr Paech: Oh, exaggeration!
Mrs FINOCCHIARO: I pick up on the interjection. The Member for Namatjira is saying I am exaggerating …
Mr Paech: Yes, because you are fudging the truth!
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Namatjira, withdraw that.
Mr PAECH: I withdraw that comment.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.
Mrs FINOCCHIARO: The Member for Araluen, in her contribution, made the same observation and I can hear others around me saying the same thing. It really showed the naivety of this government about the situation. It showed an unwillingness to accept its role in creating this crisis, or even that there is a crisis at all. That is probably scarier than anything. Does the government understand what is going on and what this means? Are they blindly, naively or willingly pretending that this is not happening and pushing through with their agenda, irrespective? It is terrifying.
Do all of you really believe that this is not of your doing—that you have no control, influence and role in navigating our way out of this? It is mind‑boggling. It is certainly unnerving and Territorians are paying very close attention to what the government is doing, saying and how the government thinks it will provide a pathway out of this mess it has gotten us into. Unfortunately, to this point, we have heard nothing. There is no plan. It was just a report which is scathing, scary and nothing - nothing followed it—no leadership whatsoever.
Of course, we have had plenty of rhetoric from the Treasurer and the Chief Minister about heavy lifting and tough decisions—statements this government loves to roll out. They are very good at sticking to their lines and these are two that roll off the tongue at every opportunity.
Unfortunately—and the Members for Blain and Araluen, and I think the Member for Fong Lim—asked what they are. You cannot just say it and lob a statement out there. You are the government and you have to come through with the substance. The substance is not there. What is this heavy lifting you speak of so often? Where is this list of tough decisions you tout you have made? No one knows where they are. No one has seen them or heard them.
It highlights this total disconnect between running off and being the government and doing what you think you have to do, and how everyone else is feeling. The fact that you cannot reconcile in your minds or understand that the fear is real is terrifying.
Let me frame this debate. We are talking about an environment at the moment where businesses are closing just about every day. People are making the decision to leave the Territory because they do not feel there are opportunities here or they might have lost their jobs—a number of reasons why people leave. There is no question people are going—very sadly. People are feeling strained within their own financial situation. We know retail spending and other types of discretionary spending is down, which means that people at home are feeling that there is a need to exercise restraint.
Do not get me wrong, debt is part of a lot of people’s lives. People have credit card debts, mortgages, car loans or personal loans for holidays, and all sorts of things. Governments have debt too. We are not standing on this side of the Chamber saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, we cannot believe you have any debt, that is ridiculous’. We are saying that the trajectory you have us on and the level of debt you are putting us in is unsustainable and there is no way out of it. You cannot pull back from the position you are entrenching us in. It is not manageable and you are not acting financially responsible in the way you are managing it going forward.
I do not know if it is because you are sitting there, comfortable and snug in your majority government—you feel that warm blanket of majority wrapped around you. I point out the obvious that the majority is slowly reducing. We welcome more people on this side of the Chamber, but nonetheless, that warm blanket you wrap yourselves in and pat yourselves on the back with is completely out of touch. It is delusional, divorced from reality, arrogant. You are devoid of vision, incapable of accepting fault. It is astonishing what comes out of your mouths to justify the state of the Northern Territory.
I remind you that you are not spending your own money. It is not like you, the Labor government, got together, pooled their money and said, ‘This is what we will do to build the Territory’. You are spending Territorians’ money. This is taxpayers’ money. You are responsible to Territorians, to spend their money properly, invest in the future of the Northern Territory for future generations, provide growth, infrastructure and opportunity. These are the things you have been tasked to do with someone else’s money. You seem incapable of recognising that.
The gap of $4m, between the cost of keeping the doors open and the money you have to pay for that, is unsustainable. You cannot have a gap of $4m a day; it is not sustainable. At the moment we are paying about $800 000 a day in interest repayments. Think of all the other things that could go towards. But $800 000 is a drop in the ocean compared to the predictions of your own report in 10 years’ time—$2bn in interest a year. That is $5.5m a day on interest repayments.
Anyone could think of a better way to spend that money. A lot of people have debt, as do governments, but $5.5m in interest repayments every day—unsustainable is the word, but it is also negligent. You are acting negligently. You have a duty to the Territory and to Territorians. You put your hands up to undertake the jobs you are doing, and you are managing it negligently.
What happens if Moody’s lowers the credit rating of the Territory? You are conveniently not talking about that. We are sitting on a negative outlook. That further adds to the financial woes of the Territory, and you are not speaking about it. All these things have real-life impacts. That is less money you can invest in nation- and Territory-building infrastructure. It is less you can spend on building schools, improving our healthcare system, ensuring we diversify our economy and giving tax relief to Territorians so they can continue to invest in the Territory and employ Territorians.
None of that is possible when you are lumbered so heavily with a debt burden that you cannot even meet the interest repayments on.
This government came in talking tough about the alleged $2bn GST cut, which is a shameful scare campaign. It is an outrageous political stunt, which I note the government does not talk so heftily about now as it did for the last year or so. There is no question our GST was reduced. Make no mistake, Gary and I do not want to see the Territory lose one cent of GST. We have been fighting in Canberra to do what we can and put the interest of Territorians first.
Pretending it was a $2bn cut is an astonishing abrogation of your duty to Territorians. It is the only way you can dress up your own flaws.
We talk about waste and restraint. When things are tough you need to exercise restraint. Yet all we are seeing is big dollar announcements on spending. Sure, incentives stimulus is important; we have no issue with that except that none of it is accompanied by a plan, a cost benefit analysis, reductions in other areas, or any in which we will get back on track.
Territorians live in fear that in 10 years we will be at that $35bn mark. At the current rate that is exactly where we will be. You have done nothing. You have shown Territorians you are doing nothing. You do nothing but announce spending. When Territorians have to reign in their home budgets, businesses are closing their doors and people are doing it really tough, all you do is spend other people’s money.
To go back over some history and classic waste: the Myilly Point museum disaster. What a debacle that was; an absolute waste of money.
There is the famous delegation to Singapore investigating all the different plants we may be able to plant. Sure, great! Join the queue of people who have been to Singapore to look at plants, but maybe we should not be doing it when the budget is so tight.
The MyFuel flop—what an outrageous—everyone knew that would not work. That is more good money after bad, out the door.
There was $60 000 to advertise a decision on Anzac Oval in Alice Springs, you jumped the gun there, didn’t you?
The Boundless Possible campaign—millions of dollars poured into that.
Mrs FINOCCHIARO: The Opposition Leader loves the rocket. For him that was the red flag. We talk about the red flags of this government’s incompetence. The Boundless Possible rocket is one of the Opposition Leader’s favourites because it was an astonishing waste of money.
Your tree-branch review, what are you calling it? The branch and roots—a very technical term. I am hoping the rocket features as a leaf on one of the branches.
Untold money is being spent on failed policies. The hopeless roll out of electronic monitoring bracelets, the floor price disasters, the Banned Drinker Register and the winding up of AMT—the list goes on and on. Not to mention the fact onshore gas had a huge role to play in the last two-and-a-half years and just like that you stopped it. We would be in a different position if that was not the case. You are now on the back foot. All you know how to do is blame the previous CLP government.
It is not washing with people because they understand that opportunity was paused and threatened because of you. People understand that. They understand what has happened in that part of the Territory’s economic story. It is a tragic shame because the opportunities from an onshore gas industry are enormous, wide spread and have an important role to play in the regions we so often talk about.
Let us look at the mining industry. If this government knows how to send a message, it knows how to send a message of, ‘We are not open for businesses. That is the message you are sending to people.
Mr Paech interjecting.
Mrs FINOCCHIARO: Go and ask them, Member for Namatjira. I am not making this up. Every piece of legislation regulating the mining industry is under review. We have the Environmental Protection Bill before the House, the hybrid mining tax, and that derelict vacant building levy. Honesty, what messages are you sending …
Mr Paech: Do not profess you are good at the economy. Your books looked good because you sold every public asset the Territory had.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Namatjira!
Mrs FINOCCHIARO: What message of confidence does this send to investors, people looking for opportunities to grow the Territory, or do something different? Do not forget, you came to power promising 14 000 jobs a year. How is that going?
Sorry, I am just waiting for the answer. I thought so; 14 000 jobs a year, you have to be kidding me. I would like to see the report card on that. Maybe a Dorothy Dixer on Thursday could answer that one. 14 000 jobs a year and where are you at? I would love to know the answer.
As I said, business confidence. There are any number of indicators that come out and show us that business confidence is weak. That is not something to be proud of. It is terrible. To add to that woe of business here in the Territory is your inability to deal with crime.
Businesses are not only facing some of the toughest times they have ever seen but they are dealing with this barrage of crime, paying tens of thousands, collectively millions of dollars in replacing glass and stolen items because of your inability to manage that crisis.
I conclude my remarks at that point. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition brought this censure to the Chamber and that we heard so broadly from the cross bench. The CLP had a plan, despite how the Labor government would like to rewrite history, and we continue to have a plan for the economy and we only hope that you, the government, can have the courage and display the leadership that Territorians need to see in a time of absolute financial crisis.
Mr HIGGINS (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, thank you. This censure motion highlights one of the most critical things that this parliament should be looking at this week. Today all of the cross bench signed a statement that went out. If I can just read the last paragraph of that statement. It says:
This House has to acknowledge that the Northern Territory’s fiscal position is the highest priority of the Legislative Assembly and returning the Territory to a substantial financial position should be the primary focus of all members.
I seek leave to table the full copy of that document.
Mr HIGGINS: What that sends is a message that says this crisis that we currently have is one of the most important things that faces this parliament at the moment. Can I say how disappointed I am that there is a censure of government, criticising government, and we had one member stand up and defend. I know why the others could not speak out because they did not want to be kicked out of caucus like these other people. They are worried about their jobs.
They know they will get voted out at the next election and that is it. We hear a lot of harping from the sidelines but none of them have got the gumption to stand up like these people and have a say. Have a say. You will not get another chance with a no confidence motion or will you all sit there like little chickens and peck around the outside.
It is about time you all started standing up for your members, your constituents and the Territory. Have a say. All I am reading into this is that you do not know how to defend yourselves.
It is a bit like the Member for Blain actually said. We will all sit around and have a party while Rome burns. That is the approach you people have taken. What I see happening over there is, all you people who think you are in government are acting like you are in opposition. All you want to do is attack and blame everyone else.
Governments should lead and set the example, not be pathetic and come up with excuses. As I have said before, a good leader takes more responsibility and accepts less credit. You want to blame everyone else and say, ‘Trust us, we will fix it all’.
I cannot say much more. The silence we got from the people over there says heaps. They have nothing to say. They cannot defend themselves as they are scared they will get kicked out of their caucus. The time for you in government to stand up for your constituents is now.
I am happy that I have seen three of your members stand up for their views and constituents. All that I see on the other side are gutless people who do not want to take their responsibilities seriously. This economy is critical and it is about time you on the other side took responsibility for it rather than blaming everyone else.
Madam Speaker, I move that the motion be put.
The Assembly divided.
Ayes 6 Noes 16
Mr Collins Ms Ah Kit
Mrs Finocchiaro Mr Costa
Mr Guyula Ms Fyles
Mr Higgins Mr Gunner
Mrs Lambley Mr Kirby
Mr Mills Ms Lawler
Motion not agreed to.