Territory walking a budget tightrope

Australian Conservatives Release

There’s more evidence is out today that the Northern Territory government can’t get out of its debt and deficit mess. The federal government banning climbing Uluru from this October won’t help tourism either.

The Conservative Party says when it comes to the Northern Territory, it’s time for visionary thinking.

The Australian reports, the debt and deficit-laden Northern Territory has unveiled a budget repair plan dependent on capping expenditure growth at levels achieved only four times since the turn of the century.

The Gunner government’s target for 2019-20 of a 1 per cent total expenditure cut year-on-year has been reached only twice since 2000 and comes 15 months before Labor is due to face a fierce election battle for a second term.

Treasurer Nicole Manison’s office last night acknowledged that the Territory would exceed this year’s target – set at zero per cent expenditure growth in the previous budget – by about 7.6 per cent, higher even than the 6 per cent long-term averag­e.

Ms Manison had earlier struggled to explain why the 2018-19 estimate was missing from standard tables published in yesterday’s budget papers.

It comes after successive NT governments have failed to meet their own fiscal targets, spent up through good times and bad, and gone cap in hand to Canberra for money. Credit rating agency Moody’s praised the government’s ambition to curb its spending but warned that the savings Ms Manison outlined would be “difficult to achieve”.

And yesterday’s budget revealed the Gunner government had so far this financial year approved more than $700 million worth of extra spending that was not in the 2018-19 budget.

/Public Release. View in full here.