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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2216

Senator KILGARIFF —I refer the Minister for Finance to the Federal Government's decision to cut assistance to the Northern Territory Electricity Commission in 1985-86 by $37m and to phase out the funding over the next four years. I ask: In view of the significant financial burden this will place on the Northern Territory, will the Federal Government view sympathetically an approach by the Territory Government for an expansion of its borrowing capacity through the Loan Council to assist the Territory in covering its costs in what will be a difficult first few years?

Senator WALSH —As a result of the decision to spread the payments to the Northern Territory Electricity Commission over a longer period than had previously been envisaged-an extension of payment beyond the two year period had been requested by the present Chief Minister of the Northern Territory prior to that decision being made-there will be an increase in the cost to the consumer of providing electricity in the Northern Territory or, alternatively, a cost to the Northern Territory Government.

Senator Kilgariff appears to be suggesting that, as a result of that necessity, the Commonwealth ought to take a very lenient view of the Northern Territory increasing its foreign borrowing requirements. I will put that proposition to the Treasurer, but I would be surprised if the Treasurer looked leniently or permissively on a proposition that any State government should borrow money overseas to finance current consumption. In this context that is precisely the proposition that Senator Kilgariff is putting-that this Government ought to look permissively on applications from territorial governments to increase foreign borrowings in order to finance current consumption.