Week One was bad, will Week Two be any better?

17 June 2019

Week One of the Estimates Committee process revealed the Gunner Labor Government has lost control, is lazy or is deliberately obtuse – the Opposition is hoping they have their act together in Week Two.

Opposition Leader Gary Higgins says he was astounded the first week yielded 92 Questions on Notice – that is, questions the Ministers could not answer.

“We accept that even agency staff may not necessarily have the detailed information at hand in some cases but some of the questions the Ministers have taken on notice have been no-brainers,” he said.

“And you have to worry when the Treasurer can’t explain why $1.235 million was paid to interstate consultants and why local companies weren’t used under their Buy Local policy or when the Chief Minister doesn’t know the final cost of the Pepper inquiry up until the end of the financial year or, as Business Minister, how many small business in the Territory there are at the moment.

“The only Minister who ever seems to be across her portfolio is the Attorney-General and even she took 27 Questions on Notice for Attorney-General and Justice.

“We’re also concerned the Gunner Labor Government’s so-called root and branch review and budget repair measures have no basis.

“Many of the agencies which appeared in Week One of Estimates hearings had scant information on how they will achieve the savings they will make under the government’s policy of overall efficiency dividends and grant efficiency dividends.”

The Opposition asked the simple question: How will (savings under efficiency dividends) be achieved? Many of the responses were bureaucratic and uninformative.

Answers ranged from “restructuring”, “paring back” and “natural attrition” through to the omnipotent “efficiencies”. One agency even stated: “At this point in time we have not identified that any services will be ceased. The journey is still continuing.”

“On top of all this, the government appears to have not done the work necessary to smoothly and fairly bring about their freeze on executive contracts,” Mr Higgins said.

“We can only conclude the government is, in fact, in free fall – they either don’t know what’s going on, aren’t interested in what’s going on or are deliberately hiding what’s going on – none of which is good for the Northern Territory.”