MEDIA – Transcript – Mix 104.9 FM – The Government must show us the money
CANBERRA – 12 May, 2021
KATIE WOOLF, HOST: Well, as we know, the federal budget was handed down overnight and I guess this is a lot to take in. There always is. When you talk about these budgets and trying to work out what’s in it for us, what’s in it for the Northern Territory. We did speak to the to the Federal Minister for Finance, Simon Birmingham, a little bit earlier this morning and he outlined what Territorians can expect. But joining me on the line right now is the Federal Member for Solomon, the Labor Member for Solomon, Luke Gosling. Luke, what did you make of last night’s budget?
LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Morning Katie.There’s been a lot of commentary about it being a big spending budget, but I guess the thing that our side of politics has seen over the years of this current Government is that, you know, they’ve made a lot of announcements, but then we find that there’s big under-spends. That they don’t actually spend what they’re what they’re committed to spending. So, you know, whilst I welcome parts of the budget, we’re still waiting to see the funding for Kakadu to actually eventuate on the ground. And I was really unhappy to see that no money was in there for the Veterans’ Wellbeing Centre that they promised at the last election, so that project flounders on. And when it comes to infrastructure announcements, there was a cut in infrastructure funding at the time when we need to be building. So, I guess our point of view is, can you really trust what they’ve announced will ever get onto the ground? Or is it just a big spending budget in the lead up to a federal election? We’ll wait and see.
WOOLF: Well, I have wondered the same thing about Kakadu, but then when I went back and looked I did notice that money was actually in the budget from last year. So, I mean, what were you expecting or what were you hoping for when it comes to Kakadu?
GOSLING: Like everyone in the tourism business and the traditional owners out there, everyone has been looking at the degradation of capital over the years and we’re expecting some work to actually be done on the ground. You go out there and it’s run down. So, I guess my point is that they made an announcement about money in a federal election in 2019, and that hasn’t eventuated into action on the ground. So now we’ve got the tourism industry saying, “OK, because nothing’s been done, we need more funding because it’s more run down than it was.” And we’ve got this really magic opportunity at the moment, with no international tourism, to really capture the hearts of Australians and get them back to Kakadu. But nothing’s been done, which is really disappointing.
WOOLF: This is where I’m struggling to work out what the go is with Kakadu at the moment, because you’re right, as we’ve said, there is that money that was there initially. And you’re right, there was a call, even from Glenn Hingley, a little bit earlier in the week for more operational funding on the ground in Kakadu. But with the money that had previously been earmarked, who’s responsible for making sure that gets rolled out in the Northern Territory? And what is the hold-up?
GOSLING: I’d love to know, Katie, what the holdup is, because we’ve got a situation where there were commitments around roads being sealed, there were commitments around upgraded facilities and a new Welcome Centre. Even just little things like public toilets and the signage out there, little things like that, that make a big difference as far as the amenities go for the tourists to have the best possible experience. I mean, there’s been next to nothing done and [Parks Australia] seem to be more interested in picking fights with the traditional owners about sacred sites – we might see Gunlom close. So, across the board we’ve seen, I think, a mishandling of Kakadu by the Federal Government and parks. And it’s just such an important icon for us to have looking like a million bucks and I just expected to see more action by now and know obviously, Glen Hingley and others are doing the best they can to ensure that there is some action.
WOOLF: I definitely take your point about Kakadu. I guess the other side of it, is there’s no denying that this time around with the budget, there seems to be a lot in it, when you talk about those tax cuts. We have had a massive amount earmarked for us here in the Northern Territory of $5 billion, as I understand it, next financial year when it comes to that infrastructure and some of those highways. And when we talk about –
GOSLING: I’ve been saying that for years, Katie.
WOOLF: Yes, but then it’s up to the Territory Government in terms of actually delivering that work on the ground when it comes to that infrastructure for our roads, isn’t it?
GOSLING: It’s a partnership, and obviously the NT Government’s doing the best they can with the Federal Government and have welcomed this budget. When I look at this budget and when we look at the bigger picture, the roads funding is a good example. The roads funding is always in the budget, but it’s out in the Never-Never when it comes to the actual spend hitting the ground. So, I would like to see them actually do what they say they’re going to do when it comes to these infrastructure projects. And overall, there was a $3 billion cut in the infrastructure budget that gets missed in amongst the big announcements. When it comes to aged care, for example, there’s a big dollar figure there, but it’s still not covering the recommendations out of the Royal Commission. And that is also a concern because what Territorians know is that the cost of everything is going up. Housing is a good example, but their wages aren’t going up and I just can’t see much in this budget that focuses on getting more Territorians into permanent, well-paid jobs so that they can provide for their families.
WOOLF: Luke, we also know there has been an additional $500 million for us in the Territory, for the GST, for this financial year. The Chief Minister and Minister Paul Kirby and others have been out this morning saying that this is a good budget for the Territory. How come you feel differently to them?
GOSLING: Obviously I, like the NT government, welcome that extra GST funding, but it’s sort of making up for the previous cuts, which were pretty damaging to our bottom line. So, we always welcome a fair go, but we obviously reserve the right to say when commitments haven’t been met. And that is part of my job, to keep the Government to account. You know, they committed to the $5 million Veteran’s Wellbeing Centre, and that money is not in the budget, and we’re not seeing that eventuate on the ground. Part of this budget is good for the Territory and I join with the Chief Minister in welcoming that extra GST, for example. But let’s not forget that we copped it in the past. Moving forward, I just hope that some of their announcements actually eventuate onto the ground. And that’s my job, to continue to push them to make sure that they do.
WOOLF: It most certainly is, and Luke Gosling, we always appreciate your time. Thank you very much for having a chat with us, and when does Albo hand down his budget reply? Is it tonight or tomorrow night?
GOSLING: Tomorrow night. So, yeah, I’ve been working hard with his team to get some Territory love in there, but we’ll see. I think it will show a different vision for the future.
WOOLF: Well, let us know and let us know what is in it for the Territory and Albo’s reply. Luke Gosling, always good to catch up. Thank you.
GOSLING: Cheers mate.