Charting the epic failure of NT corrections policy

I have previously expressed the view that the current Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory is unlikely to discover any startling facts not already well known to anyone who bothers looking. Nor is it likely to produce any recommendations not already made (though largely not implemented) by previous inquiries e.g. reports by former CLP politician and lawyer Jodeen Carney (commissioned by the former Henderson ALP government), Michael Vita and former Children’s Commissioner Howard Bath.

Nevertheless, despite its huge cost (more than $50 million) there is a powerful argument that the Royal Commission is needed if nothing else to put a strong enough public spotlight on youth justice to ensure that the politicians can’t simply sweep it all under the carpet and keep ignoring it. The twin dangers of fiscal pressures (especially in the light of recent revelations about major loss of federal GST funding) and pandering to populist sentiment (which is very easy to whip up in favour of punitive “tough on crime” “law and order” approaches) mean that little is likely to change in a long term sense in the absence of strong countervailing pressure to adopt more rational, effective, evidence-based policies in future.

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Railing About Politics – Clare Martin & Daryl Manzie

Following the success of the NT Governance Summit in February the CDU School of Law has decided to join together with the Darwin Press Club to present a series of much shorter evening events every month or two. The series is to be entitled “Railing about Politics” because events will be held at the Railway Club in Parap.

Event – Clare Martin & Daryl Manzie : in conversation – Two political lives well lived, the Great Territory Lifestyle and the future
Where? – Railway Club, 17 Somerville Gardens, Parap
When? – 7pm Tuesday 11 April
Cost? – Admission $5

In an era when so much of day-to-day “retail” politics both locally and federally seems to consist mostly of pointless squabbling between warring political tribes, our objective with “Railing about Politics” is to nurture a much more constructive and non-confrontational debate about governance and longer term political issues that will contribute to making the Northern Territory a better place.

The NT’s future’s so bright I gotta wear shades …

This was a favourite song of mine back in my yoof. I used to sing it frequently, mostly to irritate friends who thought I should take things much more seriously. I think we should all start singing it again now, but for a different reason. The future really is bright for the Northern Territory, despite hyperbolic doomsaying in the mainstream media in the wake of announcements about anticipated cuts in federal GST funding.

According to respected independent economist Saul Eslake, it is likely that the Territory’s GST funding will be cut by around $1.2 billion over the next three years or so. That will mean a cut of a little over 6% in the Territory’s overall budget of $6.5 billion per year. That is certainly significant but entirely manageable. Moreover, new Chief Minister Michael Gunner IS managing it, quite skilfully as far as I can tell. His decision to promote former Under-Treasurer Jody Ryan to the position of CEO of the Department of Chief Minister seems to be paying off.

Last week’s gloomy announcement about GST funding cuts is mostly just a PR exercise in managing public expectations, although it might have been a little more prudent to avoid fuelling up the Northern Territory News to portray the situation as if the sky was falling and it was all PM Turnbull and Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison’s fault. The sky isn’t falling and the funding cuts aren’t their fault. Even after the cuts the Territory’s share of GST funding will be vastly higher than that of any other state or territory, some 4.7 times more than our per capita share of GST. Moreover, that is still more than the long-term average Territory share of GST funding. When you strip away the BS, what is happening at the moment is that the Territory’s GST share is moving back towards the (still very generous) long-term funding average after a few years of short-term stimulus driven by the huge Inpex project.

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