Another special COVID-19 Public Accounts Committee hearing has come and gone all too soon. In true PAC fashion, it was another free-for-all hearing with no apparent strategy by the Opposition and cross bench for finding information.
Despite this, a few random facts and figures emerged.
Here they are:
- CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro asked whether damage from the recent Darwin prison riot was costed at $40 million. Her question was ruled out of order for being asked at the wrong time early on and was never brought up again.
- Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who confused many this week by talking about 60 days notice to reopen the border, has finally decided that he will give 30 days notice of his intent to reopen the Territory’s borders. But no date suggested or hinted at yet.
- Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker brought up the constitution and the limitations on the NT Government to dictate preferred access to some states.
“The premise is all Australians being able to move freely and you cannot differentiate or distinguish between relevant jurisdictions,” he said. “It then comes down to the specific reasons and the powers for the Chief Health Officer to determine hotspots and the like. We are looking at those things from a legal point of view as well.”
- The NT Government has conducted 7500 tests for coronavirus to date and 800 last week alone, Health Minister Natasha Fyles said. Anyone with a respiratory-type illness is automatically tested for COVID-19 and frontline workers have been tested as well.
- According to Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie, children are less likely than adults to catch coronavirus and if they do, their symptoms are not severe.
“It may be that they do not have the number of receptors that the coronavirus interacts with in causing the illness. So that is really just in the last few days, international studies,” Dr Heggie said.
- The Chief Minister said while the Education Department is working on hard data, it appears that due to rigid hygiene measures, Territory school children “have never been healthier”. He said the government is looking at how to continue this moving forward as an “ongoing practice”.
- NOT A FUN FACT: Nearly 10,000 Territorians living in Darwin and Alice Springs are currently unemployed and looking for work by being registered through the job seeker program and jobactive program, according to the Department of Business. The actual number is 9381 as of May 17 – a massive jump from 5259 on February 29. That figure does not include regional or remote Territorians, which would make the number of unemployed larger.
- As of Thursday, 883 Territory businesses have applied for the Business Hardship Package. Nearly 300 have been approved and 463 have been assessed. The program helps business by waiving payroll tax if under $7.5 million and also awards certificates for a 50 per cent reduction in power and water bills.
- Another head-scratcher was this, offered by the Chief Minister about re-purposing funds to help pay for the more than $100 million Home Improvement Scheme:
“For example, we originally budgeted $30m for the Home Improvement Scheme, but it will be a lot bigger, helping more businesses and saving more jobs. We put $20m from the Local Jobs Fund towards covering the cost of the Home Improvement Scheme. The Local Jobs Fund is there to protect and create local jobs, which is exactly what the Home Improvement Scheme is doing. We have also reprioritised $27m from the urban public housing stimulus program and $30m from the capital works cash pool.”
We were led to believe that funding had come from Treasurer Nicole Manison’s $300 million stimulus cash that she drew down in March.
- Speaking of that, near the end of the hearings, CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro asked the question that was on all of our minds: How much of the $300 million Treasurer’s Advance has been spent to date? Too bad it wasn’t asked earlier, as chair Kate Worden dismissed it because the hearing was running short on time.
Maybe we’ll get that answer next month.