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Ministerial Statement and Paper

Debate resumed from 3 May 1995, on motion by Mrs Carnell:

That the Assembly takes note of the papers.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.42): I want to make just a few comments on this ministerial statement by Mrs Carnell. First of all, Mr Speaker, I congratulate Mrs Carnell for having attended a Premiers Conference. She joins a very tiny band of women who have done so, and I am quite sure that at the time when our forefathers - and I use that word with total accuracy - devised this scheme they did not envisage any women being in attendance. I think it is a very proud boast, for a Territory the size of ours, that we have provided 50 per cent of the women who have ever attended Premiers Conferences, although we have only 1½ per cent of the population. That is another trivial statistic we can take some pleasure in.

It is a very important forum, Mr Speaker, and it is important for two reasons. The first is the symbolism of the Premiers Conference. The fact that the Territory does attend Premiers Conferences recognises that we are a full partner in the Australian Federation. I think that is an important matter. I realise, of course, that it is not at the forefront of our constituents’ minds just at the moment and will not be for quite some time. Nevertheless, it does recognise that what we have in this Territory is full self-government. We are a sovereign Territory, and we take our place alongside the other States and Territory in that forum.

The Premiers Conference also has enormous administrative importance for all States and Territories in that it is in that forum that we can argue for a major part of our revenue from the Commonwealth. For most States and Territories, the general revenue funding from the Commonwealth is something like half of their revenue. There is a very important point to be made about the ACT. There is a very widely held perception outside our Territory that other Australians pay for Canberra. You have only to look at the Grants Commission's report on relativities and the reflection of those relativities in the Premiers Conference outcomes to realise that only two States - New South Wales and Victoria - get a smaller relative proportion of their funding from the Commonwealth than the ACT does. All the other States and the Northern Territory get a much larger proportion of their funding from the Commonwealth.

This Territory does pay its way, and I think the fact that we have made that enormous leap in the short period since self-government is something the rest of Australia ought to be applauding us for. I do not expect that they will. The contrast, in particular, between the financial arrangements for the ACT and those for the Northern Territory is very marked. It seems to me that the Northern Territory has never been required, and has never made the slightest effort, to move towards State-type funding, particularly when you compare it to the effort the ACT has been required to make and has achieved.

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