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

Centre of attention: Glory days of Anzac Oval in the 1950s
@ Peter Bassett (Posted February 19, 2019 at 7:33 pm): Appreciate your comment, especially about the old high school, Peter.
Contrary to what has been reported in the some media, the old school building is a very well constructed building with enormous inherent heritage value.
There has been – and is – a deliberately false and misleading campaign initiated by the NT Government, amplified by vested interests through a complicit and compliant print media, to denigrate the worth and value of that old education complex.


From mud, dust to grass: The beginning of Anzac Oval
@ Dr Ongo (Posted February 14, 2019 at 8:08 pm): You raise an interesting point; however, your observation applies equally well to other listed heritage sites, eg. such places as the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Alice Springs Heritage Precinct (including Stuart Park, old hospital, old Alice Springs Gaol, and several houses in Hartley and Bath streets), and the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct.
There are histories, stories or law applicable to all of these places since time immemorial but other than to acknowledge previous Aboriginal occupation or use of such sites, I’m not qualified or knowledgeable enough to comment about them.
In regard to “untyeye that once grew there” at the Anzac Oval site (referring to corkwood trees – Hakea divaricata), only one still survives just inside the boundary near the Senior Citizens Club. It’s the same tree on the right of the photo, framing the new school, taken by Prue Crouch’s father in the early 1950s.
The heritage statement for the nomination of Anzac Oval does state: “The Anzac Oval Precinct contains several sacred sites.”
Thanks for your comment.

 

Corkwood


Home owner bonus: New build sector bleak, says CLP
The situation generally in the Northern Territory is giving every indication that it’s rapidly spiralling out of control.
I suspect the NT Government’s reactions are too little, too late; and this latest scheme will likely end up being home owner bogus rather than bonus.


West Macs fire mitigation critically inadequate: Scientist
Such a shame, Steve, that we’re unable to harness your sprays to put the wildfires out.


Government fails to protect major tourism asset
My recollection is that the major wildfire years in the earliest period of this century were 2002-03, and again in 2011. Both of those periods closely followed years of exceptionally high rainfall (2000-01 and 2010 respectively).
This isn’t unusual in itself – there were significant wildfire years in 1968 (following the breaking of the drought in 1966) and in 1975 (following 1973-4, the wettest period on record in Alice Springs).
What’s different now is that this major wildfire event has occurred after a very dry year, with a record set at Alice Springs in 2018 for the longest period without rain being recorded, although (as I recall) this wasn’t the case further west of town.
In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel west and east of Alice Springs a number of times and also to fly frequently to Darwin and back with clear views of the area around town.
The clear impression I’ve gained on every trip is the extent and dominance of the spread of buffel grass in the ranges.
It’s like a blanket hugging the ground as far as the eye can see. It’s spread is overwhelming, and the ecology of this region is forever changed.
There are often comments about the need for protecting Alice Springs from major floods but that’s the least of our worries.
It is major wildfire that poses the most serious risk to our town, and the recent disaster in the West Macs demonstrates this risk can occur at any time.


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