Numbers don’t stack up: paper
THE extravagant growth of the Northern Territory public service has contributed to the failure to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage, according to the Yothu Yindi Foundation.
In a submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into GST revenue distribution, the foundation, which represents Yolngu people in North East Arnhem Land, noted the NT’s public service increased by 42 per cent between 2003 and 2016, while the population increased just 21 per cent in the same period.
That was the equivalent of 3000 positions, or $400 million expenditure each year, the submission said.
Meanwhile, successive NT governments underspent on rectifying indigenous disadvantage. In 2015/16, 68 per cent of federal cash handed to the NT Government was determined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to be “for the benefit of indigenous people”, while just 53 per cent was used for that purpose, leaving a deficit of about $500 million, the foundation claimed.
“We indigenous people in remote Arnhem Land observe these matters with a great deal of cynicism and dismay,” the submission read.
But the current model used to determine how GST cash was distributed to states and territories did little to alleviate the burden.
The Territory started off with “extraordinary levels” of social and economic Aboriginal disadvantage and poor infrastructure at the time of selfgovernment in 1978, and hadn’t been allowed to catch up since.
The paper argues for financial relations between the Commonwealth and the NT Government be “fundamentally reformed” in relation to indigenous disadvantage and the Productivity Commission position itself as an independent umpire to ensure money given to the Territory Government to address Aboriginal disadvantage was used as it was intended.