2017-18 Northern Territory Budget
This briefing note has been prepared by Perth-based bipartisan strategic advisory firm GRA Everingham. For more information, visit www.graeveringham.com.au.
Northern Territory Treasurer Nicole Manison has handed down the 2017-18 Territory Budget, describing it as “for the optimists, not pessimists” and one “that invests in our future – jobs, children and the community”.
The Michael Gunner-led Labor Government, which stormed to power in a landslide victory over the Country Liberals in August last year, has delivered bigger spending in an attempt to counter-act a stagnant Territory economy.
However, the Government’s finances make for grim reading, with Ms Manison announcing the NT is expected to post a $1.3 billion deficit in 2017-18 — the biggest in its history.
That has blown out from a $458 million deficit projected in November’s mid-year financial report.
Projected Government debt has hit $5.5 billion, matching the record level forecast in 2012, which contributed to NT Labor losing power at the election that year.
The Government has abandoned its pledge to return the Budget to surplus in 2019-20, blaming a vastly decreased GST take. Ms Manison said Budget deficits would “moderate” to $572 million by 2020-21.
The 2017-18 operating budget is worth $6.7 billion, plus $1.4 billion for capital works and equipment purchases, creating a total budget of $8.1 billion.
According to the Gunner Government’s figures, the reduction in the Territory’s GST share from 5.3 per cent to 4.7 per cent will wipe $2 billion from the Budget over four years, including $385 million next financial year. The Federal Government disputes this, and says the shortfall will only be $269 million next year.
Ms Manison said due to forecast debt and deficit, it was possible the Territory’s credit rating would be further downgraded.
Ms Manison said the Government was handing down its economic plan for the NT in a climate of negative population growth, a sluggish economy and cuts to the NT’s share of GST.
The Treasurer blamed the previous Country Liberal Government for leaving the NT’s finances “in a mess”.
“The previous Government failed to have plans in place for either public or private investment, preferring instead an ad-hoc approach to public policy making that saw the Territory chasing one shiny object after another,” Ms Manison told Parliament.
Private sector investment is expected to drop by almost 20 per cent by next financial year, and employment is only expected to grow by 0.5 per cent in the same period.
Ms Manison said that considering difficult economic conditions were forecast for the NT over the next 12 to 18 months, the Government had committed to spend.
“We had two choices in how we take the Territory forward in this Budget,” she said.
The Budget contains a record $1.75 billion infrastructure spend, which Ms Manison said was a key plank of the Government’s strategy to create jobs, with a stimulus of $250 million and record investment of $297 million for repair and maintenance works.
Key Spending Highlights:
$1.75 billion infrastructure spend:
- $250 million stimulus over two years.
- $297 million for repairs and maintenance.
- $733 million investment in Territory roads and transport assets to connect and unlock economic development.
- Funding to attract private investment in major Territory projects.
$999.3 million for education$1.1 billion over 10 years for the Remote Housing Investment Package $1.57 billion for health and hospital services:
- $80 million in 2017-18 to support five-year $259 million health spend on the Core Clinical Systems Renewal Program.
$233 million for children and family support services
$100 million to revitalise Darwin’s CBD commencing with the State Square redevelopment
$43 million for tourism marketing, promotion and events in the NT
$3 million ongoing to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption