Unions slam slashing of NT budget

May 1, 1991

By Adriaan Anarco-Troika

DARWIN — The "razor gang" Estimates Review Committee, set up by the Country Liberal Party government late last year, will slash over $120 million from government spending over the next two years.

It recommends the axing of more than 1220 jobs from the public service, the abolition, amalgamation or privatisation of government departments, school closures, a public holiday exterminated and increased taxes and charges.

At a stop-work meeting here to discuss the report, more than 2000 unionists heard Trades and Labor Council secretary Mark Crossin say that the cuts would cost the Territory a lot more than jobs.

Crossin said the $108 million cuts (using the government's figures) are a loss not of 1200 jobs but of closer to 3000. On top of that go the families of those 3000 workers out of the NT.

"The ERC made no mention of the fact that the Territory government, under successive chief ministers, had put massive sums of our money into the Sheraton Hotels, Yulara [tourist resort] and favourable tax breaks for the casino."

Crossin also mentioned the government's $60 million into the Trade Development Zone for fewer than 60 jobs, and a lot of empty future indoor cricket centres (vacant factories). The State Square and Supreme Court building projects also failed to rate a mention in the ERC cuts.

Jamey Robertson, president of the Trades and Labor Council, told the rally that in 1987 the unions exposed rorts in the public sector totalling $23.7 million.

The government "refused to act on those, and I guess the reason must be that we proposed doing such outrageous things as making chief executive officers fly economy down the back of the plane with the rest of us ... All of this has shown that once again it is those at the bottom who are going to be punished", Robertson said.

NT Teachers Federation secretary Hilary Press slammed the cuts to the education system. She said teachers were angry and were meeting Territory-wide to discuss the ERC report.

"This report makes major changes to the education system ... completely without consultation with teachers, parents or students, or any of the people who are going to be affected."

Col Brodie, secretary of the NT Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union, ridiculed the ERC claim that cuts in social areas have been handled with sensitivity. "We have a machine that has cogs in it, you are all part of it. You are all part of the government, whether you're a cleaner or whether you're bloody Marshall Perron [chief minister], you all help make that machine work and you shouldn't be treated any different!", Brodie said, raising cheers from the meeting.

Joan Wilkinson, NT Nurses Federation secretary, warned the government the Nurses Federation will oblige the NT government if it wants confrontation and not conciliation.

Chief Minister Marshall Perron blames the economic problems of the Territory on the Commonwealth. He said that Commonwealth funding cuts over the past six years were the principal reason for the savage cuts.

Labor MHR Warren Snowden rejected Perron's claims. "The plain facts are the NT government has a record of financial mismanagement, and claims of Commonwealth funding cuts are just a smokescreen to hide economic incompetence", Snowden said.

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