As expected, the Federal Government announced significant new spending in the NT. The details (such as they are) are here and here.
At first glace it seems surprisingly good. Here are the main items,
$18.5 million over two years from 2008-09 for 66 additional Australian Federal Police;
$514m to repair and build housing in remote communities over the next four years, on top of the $279m already allocated;
$100m over two years from 2008-09 for more doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and specialist services;
$78.2m over three years to create real jobs in Australian Government service delivery; and
up to $30 million over three years to match on a dollar for dollar basis contributions by the NT Government to assist them to convert CDEP positions supporting NT and local government services into real jobs.
I particularly like the last two, but I’ve no idea if they are of sufficient scope to achieve the desired outcomes. But I think that they are recognition of the disastrous policy of abolishing CDEP.
This is how Mal Brough introduced the announcement,
The Howard Government will provide over $740m in further funding for initiatives in 2007-08 and future years….
If you have a good look at it, you soon realise that nothing like $740m will be provided in 2007-08, it’s more like $120m, some of it conditional and much of it coming from previously announced programs. Housing is a good example. I was pleasantly surprised to see the scale of the proposed funding. It looks big, but it’s worth keeping in mind that this is only a fraction of the known need. And what I’d figured out belatedly from the sparse information available, is that this is not new funding allocated specifically in response to the NTERT, but is coming from the already announced ARIA program, due to commence in June 2008. The NT Govt had publicly stated that it was hoping around 50% of this funding would come to the NT. Some people have suggested that ARIA is a $1.6 billion dollar program, but that looks like the 2 year expenditure from what I understand. Based on this, the announced funding is about 25% of the total program. And that’s over 4 years. So the Federal Govt is proposing to provide 1/3 of the housing funding that is known to be required. The program itself is a concern. Detail of how it will work is patchy at best, but an interesting aspect of it is that the Government attaches significance to one particular goal,
ARIA will also provide assistance for Indigenous people to directly purchase new homes or to lease-purchase a home.
I don’t personally know any people in remote communities that are desperate to jump on the mortgage merry-go-round, but Brough and Howard seem convinced they are.
The major health-related announcement was the Remote Area Health Corps . The overt military terminology continues. I’ll have more to say about this later.