Two new commissioners will be appointed to bolster private investment in the Northern Territory with the goal of reaching the government’s decade-long $40 billion economy target, Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced this morning, but critics say it’s an admission of years of economic failure.
The Territory Investment Commissioner and Major Projects Commissioner roles created today will “become key links between industry and government” and will have the power to make recommendations to Cabinet, Mr Gunner said in a statement.
The new commissioner roles, which will be advertised this week and filled on an interim basis with people who have not been announced, will each oversee a team of about 10 “specialist staff” from Investment Territory, with other “surge staff to pivot between the two teams”.
The commissioner roles are the latest Gunner Government’s attempt to attract much-needed private investment to the Territory, that follows the $200 million Infrastructure Development Fund that was shuttered in 2019 without attracting a single dollar of private investment; “Team NT” and “Team Territory” which were groups led by former Labor politicians to identify investment opportunities; the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission; Investment Territory bureaucrats, and Major Projects teams.
CLP Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro called the latest announcement of two new commissioners a “pathetic” effort that shows the government is out of ideas and has failed to attract private investment to the NT for four and a half years.
“This is just adding additional red tape and bureaucracy to an already bloated system that by the government’s own admission isn’t working,” she said.
“It’s had numerous reports done to tell it that it needs to do something differently and instead what we’ve seen is more of the same from the Gunner Government – more high-level jobs, presumably for their mates, sitting within a government department, writing reports, achieving nothing.
“It just shows they have nothing on the table and no plan for the future.”
Ms Finocchiaro added that her election commitment to establish an Office of Territory Coordinator position that would sit outside of the bureaucracy would have reformed the way investment is attracted to the NT, but it was rejected by the government last month in Parliament presumably in favour of the new commissioner roles that will sit within existing departments.
The Territory Investment Commissioner will oversee a new $5 million fund to partner with industry to find new investment opportunities in the Territory in targeted sectors such as advanced manufacturing, renewable energy and digital industries.
The Major Projects Commissioner meanwhile will be the point of coordination for major projects and will recommend additional legislative changes where necessary “to make it easier to deliver projects and will identify legislative powers required to support their role, if needed,” the government said.
That role will also chair the newly formed Land Development Corporation Board and will oversee the creation and operation of sustainable development precincts.
It remains unclear how the new roles will work with already established bodies currently attracting private investment. The Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission’s report, that was handed down in December, was not mentioned in the announcement of the new roles.
Mr Gunner said an annual report card and the deliverables of each role will be publicly released.
The Chief Minister’s office also said the new roles will be advertised this week. The salary grade was not publicly disclosed.
“They will be filled immediately with interim appointments to act from today,” Mr Gunner said in the statement, but did not disclose who will fill the roles in the interim.