Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the Northern Territory’s economy will “rebound” post-coronavirus quicker than everywhere else, even as new federal figures estimate more than 21,000 NT jobs are expected to be lost by next month, while wages plummet.
Mr Gunner said he understood Territorians were facing tough times, but that it was his decisions made during the initial phases of the pandemic that have put the NT in a position to bounce back better than other states.
“We’re gonna get back to a new normal quicker than the rest and so we’ll see a much quicker rebound out of this,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Which does get those workers back into jobs, hopefully, as we move forward.”
Mr Gunner did not point to any firm plan or figures when stating that jobs would be brought back, outside of his already announced “roadmap” to re-opening businesses over the coming weeks.
It was also unclear what information Mr Gunner was relying on when he said the NT’s economy would rebound better than most while its borders remained closed.
New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on Tuesday show that Territory jobs dropped an estimated 5.7 per cent between March 14 and April 18 alone, while wages here reduced by among the highest percentage in the country at 9.2 per cent during the same timeframe.
Further Treasury figures released by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday showed that the Northern Territory will shed 21,400 jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic by the end of June. The Treasury figures found the biggest economic declines were experienced in NSW and Victoria.
According to the ABS data, the estimated NT job loss percentage was slightly less than the national average of 7.5 per cent.
One in three accomodation and food service jobs were lost across the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new ABS figures, with the NT shedding 29 per cent of those jobs between March and April.
Before Mr Gunner’s press conference on Tuesday, the government announced a taskforce to investigate ways to revive the moribund NT tourism industry, with warnings that it may never recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was also revealed that NT tourism businesses were not expecting to make a profit for at least 18 months.
The ABS job statistics follow a grim CommSec Sate of the States report that showed the Territory’s economy was in a deep decline before the coronavirus pandemic, with unemployment increasing 33 per cent over the decade average, construction work tanking and the population continuing to shrink.
Opposition and crossbench members attacked Mr Gunner’s record on the economy and finances in recent weeks. They have called on him to release a rough budget, reinstate estimates hearings and to release a Pre Election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) before the Territory general election in August, with some voicing concerns the NT was bankrupt.
Mr Gunner has so far declined to initiate those items, suggesting that a budget was out of the question because of unknown GST revenues. He also said a year-end spending report might be made available in July, but that it could be August.
Mr Gunner ended his press conference on Tuesday by cracking jokes with the media about contacting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and about his favourite “dry noodle” dish that he’ll be eating again at the Parap markets on Saturday when it reopens.
“I reckon the rest of the country is looking at us with a fair amount of jealousy and it’s not just Australians paying attention,” he said.