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.

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