The Northern Territory’s Labor Opposition says it can spend big on infrastructure and deliver a budget surplus by cutting government agencies and suspending future infrastructure programs.
Treasury has released its assessment of Labor’s election commitments, showing $523 million will be spent over four years on new capital works rather than the Country Liberals’ $321 million.
Treasury said only $300 million was available to support “new or expanded projects”, meaning Labor would have to suspend future projects to avoid blowing the budget.
“We had three choices,” Labor leader Michael Mr Gunner said. “We could defer on our promise to remote Territorians around housing, we could borrow more money, or we could reprioritise infrastructure projects on forward works.
“For us the decision was pretty easy. We will reprioritise those forward works.”
But Mr Gunner said he could only see which projects would be suspended after being elected into office, and Treasury said the pledge “may be difficult to achieve”.
Chief Minister Adam Giles accused the Opposition Leader of being secretive, saying all future capital works projects were detailed in the May budget.
“Show us what services are going to be cut,” Mr Giles said.
“There’s been $300 million allowed to be spend within the Treasury’s parameters. Labor have said they will spend more than $500 million, which will blow the budget.”
Public service cuts loom under Labor
Labor’s Treasury-checked costings show a return to surplus in 2019/20 — worth $62.85 million — and a debt of just over $3 billion.
The CLP’s costings show a $15.99 million surplus and a slightly higher debt over the same period.
Labor hopes to find savings by amalgamating government agencies, reducing the number of departments from 31 to around 20, and cutting department chief executives.
Mr Gunner said other staff cuts could be mitigated through redeployment.
“We do want to reduce the size of the public service back to where we had it in 2012 because that is a much more coordinated service,” he said.
The CLP will spend more than Labor in the next term of government on a new Palmerston police station, pledging $30 million instead of $15 million.
The Government’s also marked $47 million to build a new public school in Zuccoli, whereas Labor is pledging a $70 million boost to school budgets to meet its commitment to hire teachers cut under the CLP.
Labor’s budget for remote housing projects is $301 million, more than the $150 million set aside by the CLP.
Labor have included $15 million for Warren Park Rugby League, but not until the 2019/20 financial year.
Mr Giles has pledged a re-elected CLP government would build a new Don Dale detention centre after the ABC’s Four Corners detailed abuse inside NT youth corrections, but the party’s costings do not put a figure to that pledge.
Labor has pledged $15 million for a new Don Dale, but that money would not be seen until 2018/19.