The Gunner Government faced a litany of questions on Thursday during the Public Accounts Committee hearing by Opposition and crossbenchers over their coronavirus spending.
In a two-hour session that saw a scattershot approach to asking questions, it seemed to veer in every direction with no coherent strategy for ascertaining information.
Nevertheless, a few facts emerged.
And while Chief Minister Michael Gunner continued to refuse to release whole-of-government budgetary information, citing unknown revenues, we did learn a few things in a scattershot way.
Here’s a few fun facts that emerged over the two hours:
- It’s costing NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services $1 million a month over budget for overtime pay during the pandemic. But ADF and AFP personnel are being covered by the Federal Government.
- The former Inpex workers camp at Howard Springs has cost Territory taxpayers $1.43 million over the last two months or so, including operating costs of $793,000 and $641,000 for “some establishment costs”. It was revealed the government has 30 beds put aside “as a red zone for COVID-19 patients and we have 100 beds available for quarantine should we need it,” Health CEO Catherine Stoddart said. The facility continues to cost taxpayers a lot of money.
- Mental health is the key component of determining exemptions for people to quarantine at home rather than at local government-selected hotels. An astounding 5000 applications have been received for home quarantining, but the government has not said how many people were actually put in quarantine overall. Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the exemptions were still being assessed and that people have been “incredibly frustrated”.
- Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie revealed coronavirus “probably actually goes, in infectivity … somewhere around 10 days” and that the 14-day period currently being applied to quarantining people suspected of having the illness was “precautionary”.
- The Federal Government have announced 83 point-of-care testing facilities will be rolled out in Aboriginal communities across the Territory. But the locations have still not been decided.
- Michael Gunner said National Cabinet discussed the potential for the COVIDSafe app to be used as a “passport” people would need to present to get into establishments, but that the idea was scrapped because “there probably would have been issues if we had done that with the legislation through the Australian Government or at a local level with the Anti-Discrimination Act”.
- There has been a 99 per cent quarantining compliance rate.
- Don’t expect to get on a plane for an international holiday any time soon. Nobody could say for sure when the border restrictions will be lifted. “Our biggest vulnerability is international travel,” Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie said. No mention of how may international flights have arrived in the last few weeks.
- Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker revealed for the first time that four ADF personnel infected with coronavirus would be coming to Darwin for treatment. But nobody seemed to pick up on that, perhaps because he started the announcement in the middle of disclosing other information by calling it an “update” on the personnel nobody was aware of. He also said five other ADF personnel involved in the operation to bring those troops home from the Middle East will be under supervised quarantine somewhere in Darwin.
- There are currently 150 people in quarantine in anticipation of returning to a remote community.
- Savings from not holding social events at Parliament House will be used to cover overtime costs of 15 public servants answering 12,000 phone calls to the government coronavirus hotline. Other savings were found from public servants not travelling, said head public servant Jodie Ryan. The actual figures were not provided, nor asked.
- The new normal is out there somewhere.