LETTER: Mini Budget courtesy the Toe Cutter and others resurrected

Sir – In the NT Government’s mini-budget is a strong element of deja vu: Three of the panel of experts appointed by the Mills Government for the current exercise (paid for at great cost to long-suffering taxpayers) were also prominent at the time of the Expenditure Review Committee process of 1990/91. They are Barry Coulter (then newly appointed as NT Treasurer), Dr Neil Conn (then Under-Treasurer) and Col Fuller (a senior public servant, the secretary of the Dept. of Transport & Works, and the Power and Water Authority). Fuller had previously been the head of the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, in which organisation he was widely known as “Toe-cutter”.

The circumstances and reasons for the ERC process of 1991 are markedly similar to what’s happening now – both events followed hot on the heels of NT elections (in 1990 the CLP had a “near death” experience, being on track to lose office for the first time after years of turmoil; this year the CLP has been returned to office after years of being in Opposition) – and of course the Labor Party was / is to blame on both occasions, too (in 1990/91 it was the Federal Labor government’s fault, now it’s the previous NT Labor government’s fault).

Not only is the wheel of NT history constantly spinning in a rut but we’re all being taken for a ride, too!

It’s worth mentioning, too, that the CLP first attempted winding back conditions of employment for the NTPS in June 1987 (under CM Steve Hatton) in response to difficult budgetary circumstances. This prompted a wave of protests across the Territory, on one occasion leading to a near riot on the steps of the (old) NT Legislative Assembly when CLP politicians were jostled by extremely angry public servants.

 

Territory voters vented their spleen in July that year by switching support for the Federal Labor candidate – and the legacy of that situation continues to this day – it was Warren Snowdon, who has now gone on (despite one interruption) to become the longest serving Federal politician in NT political history and is the second-longest serving politician overall (the record of longest-serving NT politician is still held by Bernie Kilgariff).

Alex Nelson

Alice Springs

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