Consider these scenarios: first looking at Alice Springs – lots …

Comment on Town gets a say in its economic future as $2b cut hits home by Alex Nelson.

Consider these scenarios: first looking at Alice Springs – lots of empty shops, a struggling tourism industry (nothwithstanding hopeful indications to the contrary), rampant crime and chronic youth justice problems, the loss of an urban electorate in favour of a new one in the Top End, and the town’s tallest building under construction.
At the Territory level – Darwin’s scene much the same as Alice Springs except it’s even worse in several respects: There’s a large capital works project under construction in Darwin, a new pipeline linked to the Amadeus to Darwin gas pipeline is on the verge of construction, Shane Stone is the president of the CLP, and the Chief Minister (the Member for Fannie Bay) has led his party to a remarkable election victory.
On the national scene: A slowing economy, a rising budget deficit, record levels of personal indebtedness, unemployment trending upwards, a crisis in housing affordability, energy distribution posing serious problems for the manufacturing industry, an unstable Federal Government returned to office with the smallest majority since 1961.
Sounds very familiar but I’m actually referring to the situation that existed in 1990.
There are a few twists compared to the current scene, for example the Federal Government was Labor under PM Bob Hawke (we’ve just passed the 27th anniversary of Labor’s wafer-thin election victory) and the NT Government was CLP led by CM Marshall Perron.
The biggest twist is that in the lead-up to the NT election campaign of October 1990 the CLP government had been wracked with controversy for several years and by early 1990 was set for electoral defeat for the first time.
Instead, in an astonishing turnaround, the CLP was comfortably returned to office with an increased majority (a situation that has never been properly analysed and also had profound consequences for national politics – but that’s another story).
However, what’s not different to now was the budgetary situation confronting the returned Perron Government with severe cutbacks of Federal funding for the NT.
Shortly after the NT elections of October 1990 the NT Government responded to the worsening economic situation by establishing an Expenditure Review Committee, headed by Treasurer Barry Coulter. The ERC’s decisions were released in April 1991, announcing widespread cutbacks in government expenditure and the slashing of 1,220 positions in the NT public service.
This coincided with the onset of a national economic recession, which as contemporary history now shows was the last occasion this has occurred in Australia.
It was also in April 1991 that Alice Springs’s tallest building, the four-storey Territory Motor Inn, was officially opened to great fanfare for the tourism industry.
Simultaneously, Magellan Petroleum announced that natural gas reserves in Central Australia “were more than adequate to supply another market on top of long-term requirements in the NT.
“Negotiations were continuing to pipe the Central Australian gas through the national grid to Adelaide and Sydney and to supply gas to MIM operations in Mount Isa.
“Plans are being completed to pipe gas from Katherine to Nabalco operations in Nhulunbuy”.
A few months later the owners of the Territory Motor Inn went into receivership and of course the gas pipeline developments never proceeded.
So what of the present? Well, NT Treasurer Nicole Manison will be announcing her first NT Budget in May, which undoubtedly will be heavily revised in light of the $2b cuts in GST revenue announced for the next four years.
Coincidentally (perhaps) the new NT Supreme Court building in Parsons Street, the tallest building in Alice Springs, is scheduled to officially open about the same time … and as for the new pipeline from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa – well, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Given the uncanny parallels between 1990-91 and current conditions, there should be no surprise if Australia soon enters into its next major economic recession for the first time in over a quarter of a century.
Incidentally, one of the biggest casualties of the “recession we had to have” in 1991 was PM Bob Hawke, who was replaced by former Treasurer Paul Keating late that year. Will history repeat with the current Federal Government?
Forewarned is forearmed.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Town Council riven by conflict, lack of leadership
@ Alex Hope (Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:43 am): You may not be aware just how true is your remark “party politics have always been a part of the town council.”
Here is the slogan for one candidate in the first town council by-election (for two vacancies) for March 24, 1973: “THIS IS YOUR … ALP CANDIDATE IN SATURDAY’S COUNCIL ELECTION. VOTE 1 HADDON, D.J.”
As it turned out, Dennis Haddon came third in the poll on that occasion; however, when Alderman Paul Everingham resigned from the town council in early July 1973, instead of going to another by-election it was decided to appoint Dennis Haddon to replace him.
Anybody who knows the history of Territory politics will appreciate the irony – but wait, there’s more: When Paul Everingham stood as a candidate for the first town council election campaign in June 1971, his election advertisements were authorised by “Peter Edward John Gunner, Stuart Highway, Alice Springs”. Yes, it was current CM Michael Gunner’s grandfather.


Town Council riven by conflict, lack of leadership
Councillor Matt Paterson was nominated by Jamie de Brenni for the position of Deputy Mayor, which was seconded by Jimmy Cocking. Matt Patterson has stated this on ABC radio.


Indigenous gallery: Show me the money!
Hmm, whatever happened to the notion of RESPONSIBLE self-government?
Seems like we’re running off the rails. Federal intervention again, perhaps?


Beer and the tax man’s triple tipple
@ Russell Guy (Posted August 13, 2018 at 9:45 am): Your comparison of the current regime in the NT and the former Soviet Union is noted, comrade.


No ‘comprehensive business case’ yet for gallery
@ Alex Hope (Posted August 11, 2018 at 11:01 am): You have summarised perfectly the situation as regards both the National Indigenous Art Gallery and the standard of government in the NT generally.
And it is not just the NT Government that is looking incredibly foolish on the subject of the NIAG but also a range of business groups, sporting bodies and some media that have become ensnared in this trap of their own making.
It is two years this month since the Gunner Government was swept into power, when voters took the opportunity with a vengeance to wipe the slate clean of the previous disastrous CLP regime.
Who remembers the new CM, hand on heart earnestly declaring a new and better standard of government for all Territorians?
Clearly – yet again – voters across the NT have been betrayed.
Adjectives that immediately spring to my mind to describe the current government are: Incompetent, deceitful, dishonest, bumbling, unprofessional, amateur, insincere, devious, underhand, and – worst of all – hypocritical.
And that’s just being polite!


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