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

Another great river tree goes up in flames
@ Karen (Posted August 21, 2019 at 2:04 pm): Hi Karen, I presume you mean the wildfire on the Ross Highway side of Todd River in 2002, as I recall?
That was a very damaging conflagration fuelled by buffel grass that had grown rampant during the wet years of 2000-01.
It came very close to rural properties next to the river.
As it happened, I took photos of that area several times prior to the wildfire so was able to get contrasting before and after shots that demonstrated the severity of that particular blaze.
There were a number of other deliberately lit fires at the time such as along Colonel Rose Drive, and the damage remains clearly visible to this day.


Gunner goofs: No council ‘decisions’ on gallery site
@ Some Guy (Posted August 19, 2019 at 10:43 am): No, I don’t “feel like this golden opportunity of a project to secure the future of Central Australia both in an economic and cultural sense on the world stage is slowly slipping through the fingers” because it was an illusion in the first place.
This isn’t the first occasion that a big project has been held out for us in The Centre offering some kind of economic Nirvana; we were told exactly the same kind of thing with the casino 40 years ago, and again with the development of the Alice Springs Desert Park in the mid 1990s.
Both of these facilities may be attractions but have never come close to fulfilling the visions originally held out to us as major game changers for the Centre’s economy.
With all due respect, I cannot see how a “National Aboriginal Art Gallery” will prove to be any different in the long run.


Another great river tree goes up in flames
@ Bob Taylor (Posted August 14, 2019 at 8:38 am): In this case grass wasn’t the problem, Bob, as even hard up against the trunk of the tree I noticed that none of it was burnt.
What seems to have happened was that a campfire was lit under one of the old exposed support roots of the tree and it was from this source that the flames spread into the trunk.
The roots in turn have been exposed by erosion exacerbated by the lowering of the river bed over a decade ago for flood mitigation.
The lowering of the river bed has also enabled campers to conceal themselves better from view. Unless the river bed is physically patrolled, no-one else knows they are there.


Invasive buffel grass soon part of international focus
The caption for the photo: “Dense infestation buffalo grass in land near the Alice Springs airport” brings back some memories. During my years at school in the 1970s, invariably when I spoke about buffel grass everyone thought I meant buffalo grass, a common variety of garden lawn. [ED– the autocorrect of ‘buffalo’ for ‘buffel’ has now been corrected, thanks Alex.]
As my home was at AZRI and then the new CSIRO field station next door, I was completely familiar with buffel grass during the time when its systematic introduction for dust control (especially for the Alice Springs Airport) and improved pasture was fully underway.
However, this was still the time when buffel grass was not yet dominant in the landscape so most people were unfamiliar with it.


Nuke power way to zero emissions, or a solar shortcut?
@ Ted Egan (Posted August 3, 2019 at 2:50 pm): Hello Ted, if you go to this link https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2013/07/11/when-gas-turns-to-hot-air/ and check out the CLP’s full page election advertisement from 1980, it’s just possible to make out that one of the energy options the NT Government was touting was “an experimental wind power generator for the Barkly Tablelands”.
The CLP was also giving consideration for nuclear power at that time, too.
Ah yes, we’re right into recycling!


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