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Budget delivers uncertainty and blackmail to NT outstations

Posted: Thu, May 14, 2015

THE Northern Territory’s two big Land Councils say the Commonwealth must scrap plans to hand over permanent responsibility for municipal and essential services for outstations to the dysfunctional and welfare dependent NT Government.

Plans to replace the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory with a new agreement would spell an early end to a 10-year Commonwealth commitment to fund NT outstations.

“This $20 million a year was just a trickle but at least it gave some security to thousands of people living on homelands and could be used to hold the NT Government to account,” said CLC Director, David Ross, and NLC CEO, Joe Morrison.

“To see this agreement thrown out is a real kick in the teeth to people living out bush.”

The proposed new NPA on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment would hand no-strings-attached responsibility for service delivery to the NT, a failed State that is almost totally dependent on the Commonwealth.

“The NT will never have the funds to secure the future of outstations and already milks Commonwealth money earmarked for Aboriginal people. It cannot be trusted with taxpayers’ money without careful scrutiny,” said Mr Ross.

“The NT will never have the funds to secure the future of outstations and already milks Commonwealth money earmarked for Aboriginal people. It cannot be trusted with taxpayers’ money without careful scrutiny.”

The Land Councils called for high-level involvement of Aboriginal leaders in negotiations about these funds which are vital for all remote NT outstations and homelands.

“Unless Aboriginal people have a place at the table they have every right to suspect that the new deal will result in outstation closures,” said Mr Morrison.

The Land Councils predict a repeat of the developments in WA, where the Commonwealth has washed its hands of outstations, and an unknown number of small communities face closure.

“If communities are to be closed in Australia’s richest State it’s not hard to guess what will happen in its most Commonwealth-dependent jurisdiction,” said Mr Morrison.

“The NT Treasurer’s attempt to blackmail outstation residents by linking their future to changes to the Land Rights Act betrays the real agenda of his government.”

David Tollner, the NT Treasurer, says that the Northern Territory Government has “no arranged land access agreements” to Aboriginal communities on Aboriginal land and gives this as a reason why his government continues to deliver substandard services in remote Aboriginal communities.

In fact the NT Government has hundreds of leases in Aboriginal communities and on Aboriginal lands, and has exclusive possession of those sites and unfettered access.