By ERWIN CHLANDA
Mining vs the rest isn’t the only two-speed economy scenario in Australia: the Northern Territory has its very own. Here it is Darwin vs the rest, and the numbers are striking.
So, for example, when Treasurer Delia Lawrie trumpets the “strong growth in the number of residential building approvals in the Territory” we need to ask: “Where, please?” The 2012-13 State of the Regions Report gives some of the answers: in 2012 the per capita value of Residential New Construction in Lingiari (pretty well the entire NT excluding Darwin) was $990. In Darwin it was $2464 – two and a half times as much.
It’s also instructive to look at problems from the perspective of the people at the bottom of the barrel: Lingiari has a great deal more of them than Darwin. For example, Lingiari has nearly double the nation’s average number of people aged 15 to 20 on disability support. For the 21 to 24 age group it’s two and a half times as many. For Darwin both age groups are about line ball with the national average.
Lingiari has nearly three and a half times (338%) as many long term unemployed when compared with the national average. Darwin has fewer (89%) than the national average.
Lingiari has more than three times the national average of non-students on Youth Allowance. Again, Darwin is about line ball with the nation. Lingiari less than a quarter (22%) of students on Youth Allowance when compared with the nation. This is one category where Darwin is also doing badly (34%) – although not as badly as Lingiari. What these two figures show is that we just can’t retain our bright young people once they finish Year 12.
The Alice News requested an interview, at the show, with Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton. He did not respond to the request.
Member for MacDonnell Alison Anderson (CL) did not hesitate to comment. Firstly, she says the nearly 5% long term unemployed figure, as bad as it is, is misleading because it counts part-time participants on CDEP as employed. And many young people on non-student Youth Allowance are on a futile treadmill of courses that lead nowhere.
“They have lots of white cards, diplomas, certificates,” she says. But few lead to a job: “The money comes from the Commonwealth without making sure of the outcomes.” Ms Anderson says courses should be supplied in consultation with such bodies as the Chamber of Commerce so that students and trainees learn skills for which there is a need.
Ms Anderson says there is a clear need and opportunity for farming and horticulture as was the case in the “mission days”. (Her grandfather, Ukinyi, was in charge of a small farm at Papunya.) She says not only would home-grown food be healthy and cheap for the remote communities, there would be scope for exporting produce to the cities, using low-cost backloading on south-bound transports that are usually empty. Ms Anderson says there’s plenty of land and idle labour. The Ali Curung watermelon plantation (pictured) is a good example that this industry is viable here.
“Bores were sunk in all our communities. We just need some manhours weeding. All the old people worked on farms. Why is it not happening now?”
Related article: A remote community where all adults work & kids go to school.