Territory Alliance and Labor will head to Saturday’s polls without having their pre-election commitments costed by the NT Treasury, while the CLP have missed the initial costings deadline.
It’s an unusual situation made all the more unusual by the Gunner Government failing to produce a pre-election fiscal outlook that is traditionally used by the opposition parties to get a sense of the state of the books. The government also delayed the 2020 Budget from May to October.
TA leader Terry Mills declined to get his party’s election commitments costed by Treasury, despite previously supporting the idea. Mr Mills said he wanted to focus on “getting our policies right” instead of worrying about figures at a time when official figures aren’t available.
He also blamed “scarce resources” for not submitting their party’s costings.
“Aside from not having the dozen or so government paid staff the CLP has and the scores that Labor has, it’s a bit hard to take seriously the offer from Treasury when we haven’t been provided with a 2020/21 Budget,” Mr Mills said.
“Now for a party that didn’t exist 12 months ago, of course it would be ideal if we were able to present all of our costings to Treasury, however, if government is not able to live up to its own budget, nor provided a budget in fact, I think that is the deeper concern.
“But everything we have said is framed on the need for a fiscal stimulus for the Northern Territory, we can’t cut our way out of this, this is not the time for austerity measures.”
CLP: Buzzer beater for late submission
The Country Liberal Party meanwhile missed the initial deadline set by Treasury on August 14, saying they had not received the offer from Treasury, but then later confirmed there had been a mix-up.
They have submitted their paperwork at close of business on Wednesday, five days after the original deadline and hours before the department was due to publish its findings.
It’s unclear if their pledges will be costed by Saturday.
A spokeswoman from the NT Treasury said the department wrote to all major parties offering to assess their election commitment costings.
“I’ve only been made aware in the last couple of days that we received the letter,” Ms Finocchiaro said on Wednesday morning.
It was Ms Finocchiaro who initially pushed for clarity about the costings process from the chief executive of the Chief Minister’s Department, Jodie Ryan, at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee in late July.
“The Under-Treasurer will write to the leader of all three parties so the Labor Party, the Country Liberal Party and Territory Alliance and ask if you would like to provide him with a list of your election commitments and costings,” Ms Ryan said at the time.
NT Labor is defending its stance for not releasing a budget prior to the election, while pointing fingers at the Territory Alliance and Country Liberal Party for not getting a costing of their election promises through Treasury.
Treasurer Nicole Manison said they did not need to get the party’s commitments separately costed because they were all contained in last month’s financial update.
“Our election commitment costings are already out,” a spokeswoman for Ms Mansion said.
Treasury said it would use “all endeavours” to publish its assessment of the party costings today.
“So we are calling upon the CLP and Territory Alliance here today, two days out from the Territory election, you haven’t been upfront about your costings you haven’t been upfront about your election commitments and what are they going to cost,” Ms Manison said.
Ms Manison said the budget would be released in October after the Federal Government releases their budget.
“This is an unprecedented situation where we haven’t seen a Federal budget, and we’re not going to see that until October, we have done what other states and territories have done in providing the most latest up to date information that we have got,” she said.
The NT Government has delayed the release of its budget until months after the election, citing financial uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NT Treasurer Nicole Manison has said in July that the net government debt is projected to hit more than $8 billion by the end of this financial year, $1.35 billion more than the November forecast, and two years before expected.
But she offered no actual figures of how the 2019-20 financial year ended, stating those would come after the election.
The Gunner Government had previously refused to provide its finances before the election, stating it could not due to the delayed Federal budget and GST uncertainty, but caved to the pressure at the end of May, saying it would provide some sort of a financial forecast for the 2020-21 financial year.
That did not contain full and accurate figures for the last financial year, which are still outstanding.