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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 281

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (19:13): As I was saying, in some quarters Darwin has a reputation for being a public service town, but this is only a fraction of the story. There is a small but vibrant manufacturing sector, which produces everything from ute trays to water tanks to plumbing pipes to besser blocks, and, as Darwin goes, so do the opportunities for businesses to set up in Solomon. As an example, back in 2009, Perth based business Slumbercorp Australia wanted to expand its operations outside Western Australia—

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Would those members who are still making conversation in the corridor please leave or resume their seats. The member for Solomon has the call.

Mrs GRIGGS: Can you reset my time, Mr Deputy Speaker, because this is very important. I have got lots to say.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The timer has been reset.

Mrs GRIGGS: As an example, back in 2009, Perth based business Slumbercorp Australia wanted to expand its operations outside of Western Australia and chose Darwin ahead of all the other cities on the back of its growing population and bright economic prospects. At its plant in the East Arm, Slumbercorp employs about a dozen workers and produces about 50 mattresses a day for both the local and the national markets, and, according to its Darwin management team, the Territory provided long-term opportunities that were not available down south. And I am pleased to say that the business is here for the long haul.

I urge other manufacturers who are looking to set up in a greenfields market free from the hustle and bustle that goes with larger capital cities to follow Slumbercorp's lead. I also urge those affected by the devastating decisions by Ford, General Motors Holden and Toyota to end vehicle manufacturing in Australia to look at relocating up north when considering all your options.

Tourism, while suffering from the impacts of the high Australian dollar, still employs thousands in Solomon, particularly during the dry season, with cruise ships an expanding section of the market.

There is no shortage of innovation in Solomon. A business which I have had a long association with, SRA Information Technology, shows what can be done if you are prepared to think outside the square. SRA Information Technology was recently named Territory exporter of the year with its multiaward-winning product EnviroSys, a product being used by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. SRA now has offices in Singapore and Texas as well as development teams in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Singapore. Not bad for a small local IT company based in Darwin! As I said, there is no shortage of innovation in Solomon. We well and truly punch above our weight.

The development of the $34 billion Ichthys project in Darwin brings with it the prospect of sustained, long-term economic growth in the Top End over a number of years. The Japanese multinational INPEX, along with Total, from France, and other energy based companies, has formed a partnership to build an LNG plant at Blaydin Point, on Darwin Harbour, that will process gas extracted off the Western Australian coast for at least another 30 years. This project is a game changer for Solomon both in terms of its capacity to create direct and indirect jobs and during its construction phase, which is beginning to ratchet up now.

When I made my first speech in this place, I talked about the impact that the housing crisis was having on ordinary workers and families in Solomon. Darwin still has the highest median capital city rents in the country, a brutal and expensive reality for the thousands of people in my electorate living in rented accommodation. According to Australian Property Monitors, the median rental price for a house in Darwin was $700—that is right: $700 a week—at the end of 2013. That is an incredible $200 a week more than Sydney, the most expensive capital. Similarly, the median rental for units in Darwin was $570 at the end of last year, $85 a week more than Sydney.

Four years on, I have maintained my rage at the member for Lingiari, the previous minister responsible—that got your attention!—for Defence housing. He had the opportunity to save the RAAF base houses in Eaton in the middle of a housing crisis—400 houses. He comes in here and makes out—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The member for Solomon will resume her seat. I will hear the Manager of Opposition Business in the House.