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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2644

Mr REEVES(10.05) —The honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) has taken on the mantle of the Northern Territory Government in his inaccurate and hysterical attacks on this Federal Government. Just yesterday I receive a telex from the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory which indicates just how puerile his approach is to the Federal Government. I propose to him in relation to the uranium question that we take a bipartisan approach towards the question of an assistance package for the Nothern Territory. His response was to suggest that his approach to the Federal Government in future, as it has been in the last eight months, would continue to be one of abuse, insults and invective. He gave as part justification for that the fact that he had his nose out of joint because he failed to be appointed to the Economic Planning Advisory Council. He claimed that the Premier of Queensland, his colleague in the National Party, had got in ahead of him or had been offered the job ahead of him and, when he refused it, his political colleague in Tasmania had had the offer ahead of the Chief Minister. Basically he is saying that his abuse and insult towards the Federal Government is in part because that Government did not put him on the Economic Planning Advisory Council; his nose is out of joint. I think that is a very irresponsible, childish and unnecessary way to behave in relation to the Northern Territory. If he were properly representing the views of the Northern Territory he should be doing some of the things that I have been suggesting in this House.

Let us talk about the Alice Springs Airport. The Labor Government is committed to spend $1 million to upgrade that airport during its first term of office. We are willing to proceed with that, but we propose that because the airport is obviously in need of an overall upgrade, including the tarmac and the terminal, the Northern Territory Government should consider local ownership through one of its own authorities in a similar way to the Queensland Government with the Cairns Port Authority, having redeveloped the Cairns airport through the local ownership plan. When that suggestion was put to Mr Everingham he rejected it out of hand. It would have involved the Northern Territory contributing $1 million to $2m, for which he would have got a reconstruction program for the Alice Springs Airport costing between $10m and $12m. He said that his Government was not interested in making any contribution at all towards what he regarded as a Federal responsibility. Yet at Yalara airport, which is not 300 miles away from Alice Springs, the Northern Territory Government is accepting local ownership moneys. This year it received $29,000 in local ownership moneys. It built that airport at a cost of $6m. It is willing to contribute $6m towards the construction of an airport at Yalara but not willing to put between $1 million and $2m into the construction of an airport at Alice Springs. It just shows how poorly directed the Northern Territory Government's priorities are. The honourable member for Dawson referred to the south road as having a completion date of 1988. Sure, that was the previous Government's completion date. This Government has accelerated that program and it will now be completed by middle to late 1986.

So the honourable member for Dawson should get his facts right when he is talking about things in the Northern Territory. He is obviously an instant expert on the Northern Territory. In the past six months he has spent a few weeks travelling through it. A few weeks ago he suggested in this House that the Honeymoon mine was in the Northern Territory. His knowledge of the geography of the Northern Territory is very lacking. He should not tell me and other members of this House that he knows everything about the Northern Territory. At about the same time the shadow Minister for Transport suggested in this House that the $5m that we are to spend on the route identification study-not the transport study-for the railway should not be spent. He suggested that that money should be withheld. In other words, he was suggesting that the whole program should be scrapped. Just so the honourable member can get it straight, I inform him that the $5m is to be spent on the route identification study, not on the transport study. He should check his facts again before he struts in here putting himself forward as an instant expert on the Northern Territory.

Let us talk about the superannuation fund that the honourable member mentioned. The Northern Territory Government was offered the funds. This Government was prepared to transfer those funds to the Northern Territory Government but the Chief Minister went cold on it. The honourable members should go back to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and ask him about that. Next time he comes in here he should have his facts properly researched.

The honourable member also mentioned the Grants Commission report on the Northern Territory. He made the point that the $16.9m was approved. Certainly it was approved, but the Grants Commission made a number of quite critical comments about the Northern Territory Government's accounting system. In effect the Commission said that the system was in a financial mess and that the figures that it requested from the Northern Territory Government were not provided until the last minute and even then they were inaccurate. It said also that its whole job in relation to the assessment of special assistance for the Northern Territory was hampered by the incompetence, I suggest, of the Northern Territory Government in handling an accounting system. He mentioned a number of other issues. In closing, I say that he suggested, as does the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, that thousands of jobs would be created as a result of uranium mining in the Northern Territory if Jabiluka and Koongarra went ahead. I suggest that he ask the companies concerned how many jobs will be created. He will find that 597 jobs will be created, not thousands of jobs. Again, I suggest that, before he puts himself forward as an instant expert on the Northern Territory, he get his facts straight.