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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1534

Mr ROBERT BROWN(7.45) —In October last year at a conference of the Northern Australian Development Council in Kununurra, the Federal member for Kalgoorlie, Graeme Campbell, suggested that, rather than considering statehood for the Northern Territory, it should be divided up between the adjoining States, with Alice Springs going to South Australia and the rest being split up between Western Australia and Queensland. I want to endorse the essential purpose of that proposal, except to recommend that the whole of the Northern Territory become part of South Australia and that the new State be named Central Australia. It is absurd that the Northern Territory, which could never become economically viable in the foreseeable future, should be considered for statehood. It is an accident of history that it exists at all. It was formerly part of South Australia and should revert to it.

After the honourable member for Kalgoorlie finished his address to the conference, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory leapt angrily to his feet to protest. And why should he not do so? As Chief Minister his Government has granted him an annual salary, with an allowance, of almost $100,000. The population of the Northern Territory is about 140,000. The Chief Minister's salary works out at about 70 cents per head of population per year. If we were to apply the same formula to the salary of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), he would receive over $11m a year. There are 25 electorates in the Northern Territory with an average enrolment of 3,000 electors, compared with electorates of 31,000 in New South Wales, 30,000 in Victoria, 18,000 in Queensland, 19,000 in South Australia and 15,000 in Western Australia. It takes 20 members of parliament in the Northern Territory to represent the same number of people that I represent in Charlton. There were fewer electors per member of parliament in the Northern Territory than there were electors per aldermen in the Fitzroy and Flinders wards of the Sydney City Council.

On 1 June 1986 the basic salary of the Chief Minister exceeded that of the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The base salary of the Deputy Chief Minister exceed that of the Deputy Premiers of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The base salary of the Speaker in the Northern Territory exceeded that of the Speakers in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory sat for 20 days in 1980, 22 days in 1981, 25 days in 1982, 18 days in both 1983 and 1984, and 24 days last year.

In general revenue grants alone, the aggregate from the Commonwealth Government to the Northern Territory in 1985-86 was $568m for its population of about 140,000. The lowest aggregate grant was to Tasmania, which received $494m for its population of about 440,000. On a per capita basis, every person in the Northern Territory received from the Commonwealth in general revenue grants $3,872 in 1985-86. The lowest per capita grant went to Victoria. There each person received an average of $633 in 1985-86. On 8 March this year the National Times on Sunday estimated that all grants considered, as far as the Northern Territory was concerned, meant that the rest of Australia was subsidising the Northern Territory to the extent of about $85,000 a year per head. The State which received the highest per capita grant was Tasmania, with $1,111 per head. Compare that with the Northern Territory, where the per capita general revenue grant was over $3,800.

I urge that serious consideration be given to this proposal. The benefit would lie in the removal of unnecessary and expensive duplication of administration, which amounts to a whole State structure for the equivalent of about one Federal electorate. The beneficiaries would be the people of the Northern Territory, the taxpayers of Australia and plain common sense.