Record NT debt: Gunner mum on collateral


There was no Q&A, not even a doorstop for local media. It was a 22 minute monologue – to the speaker’s credit, delivered without notes. But then he didn’t have a lot to say that he hasn’t before.
The 200-odd invited guests, mostly following required dress code (Territory informal. Gentlemen: Smart casual trousers, open neck shirt. Ladies: Smart casual), entered Araluen through the main entrance, about a third of them accepting leaflets from a dozen Frack Free Alliance members just outside the foyer.
They were representing people who reckon they have been sold out by the government over its fracking election promises, and were making the point that 56% of the recommendations of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing have not been completed and 3% not commenced.
Later those inside were told: “We are the party that protects water, banning fracking anywhere near strategic water assets. Water will be safe.”
But to avoid running the gauntlet of all those people brandishing yellow triangular signs, the speaker, 12th Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Michael Gunner, arrived through the back door to deliver his big address for the year “2020 – The Year Ahead”.
Much of it was about spending money, of course, which has resulted in government debts amounting roughly to the total annual Territory Budget and requiring interest payments of around $1m a day.
With Mr Gunner’s predecessor Adam Giles having leased the Darwin Port for 99 years to a Chinese company with links to the military firmly in mind, the Alice Springs News exclusively put this question to the Chief Minister: “What is the collateral for your government’s borrowing?”
He knows, but he won’t say – “it’s a commercial arrangement”.

And with that Mr Gunner resumed the “meeting and greeting” yesterday in the early evening.
It had started with him announcing that the government would compulsorily acquire land if it didn’t get its way on plonking the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery into the CBD.
“We will talk with the Alice Springs Town Council about the land we need to get this art gallery built,” he said.
“Let’s be clear, if we have to acquire it we will. If negotiation doesn’t work we will acquire. We will get it done.”
Elsewhere in town there are “in principle” Indigenous Land Use Agreements with the native title organisation Lhere Artepe for five parcels and involving a “settlement package” – no amount disclosed.
One large area is on the western side of the Stuart Highway opposite the Kilgariff Estate and behind the Transport Hall of Fame. This has been flagged as industrial land in countless earlier town plans.
Shade structure to in a “river activation zone”.
Another lot is north-west of The Gap at the base of the range, mentioned previously in connection with the gallery as the site where the present Anzac Oval rugby facilities could be relocated.
A third one is in the vicinity of White Gate, an informal Aboriginal living area.
Two more are west of Stirling Heights, and between the golf course and Stephens Road where a “seniors’ lifestyle village” is proposed. Expressions of interest are being sought, said Mr Gunner.
The company running the aircraft graveyard at the airport will get $1m in cash and $2m in concessional loans.
No explanation for this generosity was given other than “global economic conditions”. Mr Gunner spoke about “industry needs” – so why the handouts from the taxpayer?
$7m will be spent on upgrading the fibre optic network: “Alice will leave Adelaide for dead when it comes to fast internet.”
The Sitzlers will build 71 units for hospital staff accommodation, across Todd Street from the Melanka block.
The Exceptional Development Permit was granted on Friday for a “six storey building (to 21m) including one level of basement car parking, with shops / restaurant in a separate single storey building in two stages”.
And there will be a multi-storey car park at the hospital: “Tender out this year.”
A lot more money to be spent in the region is someone else’s: Newmont is forking out $1 billion for expanding its gold operations in the Tanami, and SunCable may be spending $20 billion on the world’s largest solar farm, 22 million solar panels, near Tennant Creek, sending electricity to Darwin and Singapore through a wire.
SunCables’ heads, billionaires Michael Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of the software company Atlassian, and miner Twiggy Forrest, of Fortescue Metals, are proposing nine more such farms, says Mr Gunner. Some may be near Alice Springs.
Incentives for fly-in, fly-out operations have been scrapped, encouraging local employment.
The scale of the Corona Virus is not yet known, but “Territorians stick together” working on stimulus packages.
A clip was shown from Alice Springs born Lilly Alexander, “born and bred” and returning to Alice after university, as a “safe, vibrant and inclusive place”.
Mr Gunner said: “That’s the Alice I know. It’s the Alice we need to get back to. I know a lot of you are worried. You don’t always feel safe. I understand people’s frustrations.”
That was – predictably – followed by the “more police” drumbeat but then came a surprising twist: Youth crime is Canberra’s fault.
This is how it works.
Mr Gunner said he had learned from the police that “there are a lot of kids who are coming in from outlying communities.
“Why are they coming in? I learned that too. The unworkable changes that the Australian Government has made to the CDEP means many adults are stuck out bush without money.
“So, where do they come? You need money, you haven’t got it, you come to Alice. When the internet goes down in Utopia, and the cashless debit card isn’t working, where do you come? Alice.
“These policy and practical failures from Canberra are pushing problems straight to Alice Springs.
“We need the Feds to get involved, in a good way. No intervention, a resurrection.
“As never before it is now critical, the Federal Department of Indigenous Affairs needs to be resurrected and relocated to Alice Springs. The people are here, not Canberra. The problems are here, not Canberra.”
And Mr Gunner said he told Ken Wyatt as much.


  1. Well all I can say is I didn’t vote that Chief Minister in.
    We need another art gallery like a hole in the head.
    Don’t need fracking.
    And he has no real solution to the crime problem here in Alice.
    As long as he’s north of the Berrimah Line no one cares down this way.
    Don’t blame the Federal government for your dismal performance.They have enough problems of their own. The sooner Gunner is out of power the better.

  2. As Mr Gunner would say and often does “let’s be perfectly clear”.
    Yes, let’s Mr Gunner. Let’s be clear what everything is about you and your vision for the NT.
    Hey fella, the NT is a place and in that place are people and so many of them are totally over you and your government and dismiss your vision as the mumblings of a leader with no clue.
    You can’t or won’t answer the most basic questions about debt and what we are borrowing against and you blame the Feds for every problem from youth crime to $45m underpayment in healthcare.
    Unbelievably you have your minister stomping around offering a 5k reward for one lucky person of hundreds that update their address.
    You can’t believe this stuff even while you’re reading it. How did we get to this?

  3. Good question about the collateral for the borrowings and huge debt.
    The “commercial in confidence” answer is rubbish.
    Worse still, if that is really true, who the hell are Territorians in hock to?
    Another Khemlani or some shady body or state to whom we really do not want to be beholden to by owing money.
    At $1m day interest, someone is getting very rich.
    Supplementary question: What is the interest rate being paid on these borrowings, Chief Minister?

  4. Government debt and leadership in our context is at the lowest point in the Northern Territory since its inception.
    When you look at the kids living in the NT here you see a mortgaged generation that will struggle to repay huge debt and consequently endure a lower standard of living, one that has been handed down to them.
    What is most disappointing in the last four years of the NT Labor government is the fact the NT is in serious debt and there is an insipid lack of energy to address the issue.
    We need energy from our leaders to create economic activity and drive it forward for great prosperity.
    Keep in mind for the next term of government and in the medium to long term the Northern Territory government must get business done in the Parliament with a majority. This is paramount.
    As the Mills party is a detriment to stable government, we need the CLP Country Liberal Party to stand up and create that stable government with a majority of its own and drive the NT economy forward.
    We will need serious structural reform to get a grip of reality and start paying down debt and if the Mills party gets any say that means deeper recession for the People of the Northern Territory.
    Forget Canberra paying the debt, the message is clear, and it’s not their responsibility. This is what happens when we as a community accept low standards from our elected representatives.
    Labor seems intent on flying low under the radar to the next election and avoiding the responsibility that is theirs when they were elected.
    Life is not all beer and skittles, though Jeff Collins is aiming to take more and give less to the people of the Northern Territory at a time we need prudent fiscal discipline.
    I challenge the Country Liberal Party to come out with all guns firing with energy to highlight Labor’s enervated position and give the electorate a new lease of life. Time to learn from past mistakes, make amends and change government urgently and get the Northern Territory ‘Open for Business’.
    The positive I can see from the recession we are in in the Northern Territory should make the people demand complete accountability.
    We need to create an environment for business to thrive, and prudently protect the environment, what we do not need are job killing activists that pervade the government and community who are in many ways to blame for this socio-economic crisis.
    Rampaging, unintelligible activists have ideologies that are not in accordance with common sense and are only for their own mindless agenda, not a balanced and beneficial viewpoint. Closing the mining industry for example would see Australia in a depression status, just irresponsible and they the activists run when matters become critical.
    We had hopes Mr Gunner would deliver better for the People of the Northern Territory, it is clear though he was just another gunna.

  5. Compulsory acquisition with what? We already have a debt requiring one million dollars a day in interest.
    And tourism is tanking all around the world.
    It’s Corona time.
    And this bloke wants to build another art gallery?
    Deadset, if only he had an orange comb-over, I could love him like I love the Golden Golem of Greatness himself.

  6. Whatever comes out of Gunner’s mouth is now white noise.
    He and his cronies have systematically fractured the Territory and particularly Alice Springs in more ways than one.
    The economy is broken, the departments are favouring Darwin and interstate contractors and to top it off, they’re bullying with the purpose of demolishing local industry.
    Businesses are stressed and stretched by narcissistic bureaucracies and anti-social behaviour is killing the rest.
    The police have their hands and feet tied and are leaving in droves as the rampaging kids operate with no fear because consequences have all but evaporated.
    This so-called “Chief” has the leadership qualities of an ideological lemming.
    The Labor caucus needs to sack this entire team now and rebuild before the election to give voters some hope!

  7. Conflict interest from Dale Wakefield: Labor is hoping we’ve all forgotten Fran Kilgariff standing for ALP when she was the Mayor.

  8. There’s another serious problem with Gunner’s program for the coming year, and that has to do with the price of oil.
    Saudi Arabia and Russia have just started an oil price war, and the perhaps intended consequence of that will be to shut the US shale gas out of international markets.
    Lower than a certain price, and fracked gas is simply not economically viable. Bankruptcies are expected.
    So probably good news for the anti-fracking lobby – profit and loss economics may make that whole problem go away.
    This Gunner dude is looking more and more like someone who simply doesn’t keep up.

  9. “about a third of them accepting leaflets from a dozen Frack Free Alliance members just outside the foyer”
    So about two-thirds (the majority) didn’t give a damn about those anti-frackers. Good, fracking is here to stay.


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