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2020-21 Northern Territory Budget Delivered

The 2020-21 Northern Territory budget was handed down on Tuesday 10 November.

OTA has prepared a summary of those budget measures most relevant to occupational therapists. Click on the links below to skip to the sections of most interest to you.

The Bottom Line

Northern Territory debt will double to $12 billion over the next four years, as Michael Gunner’s Labor Government seeks to stimulate a gradually recovering economy by way of investment in infrastructure and tourism.

Interest repayments by then will hit $511 million per annum, or $1.4 million per day. A budget surplus is unlikely for at least a decade.

Bringing down his first Budget as both Chief Minister and Treasurer, and one delivered in the context of a global pandemic, Mr Gunner said “There is no long shopping list in this budget … For those looking for a big bag of goodies, this is not the year for them.”

A sharp decline in GST revenue is a key factor in the Budget’s deterioration. Often accounting for more than half the Government’s income, the GST take will drop to 39 per cent of revenue next year. This, along with the cost of measures to counter the pandemic, have resulted in a deficit this financial year of $1.7 billion, fully $1 billion worse than forecast last year.

The Territory’s economy grew by 4.8 per cent last financial year, largely thanks to LNG exports, avoiding the contraction witnessed across the nation. It is forecast to contract by just 0.1 per cent next year, compared with an estimated 1.5 per cent contraction nationally.

Unemployment should peak at 6.3 per cent next year, declining to 5.1 per cent in 2024.

The budget is notable for a wages deal with the public sector unions, limiting wage increases, and for employment subsidies.

As a result of its straitened circumstances, the NT Government announced only limited additional investment in departments or projects of direct consequence to occupational therapists.

COVID-19

The Northern Territory Government commits a further $120 million in funding for the COVID-19 response. This includes:

  • $63 million to operate and maintain quarantine facilities, as well as infrastructure upgrades to border checkpoints and the emergency operations centre; and
  • $26 million for the frontline health response, including screening and testing, support at quarantine facilities, and operational costs such as Personal Protective Equipment.

Additional Health Investments by Region

Top End Region

  • Two new, purpose-built child and family centres in Wadeye and Wurrumiyanga to deliver vital support services to children, young people and their families; and
  • One new health clinic in Jabiru and upgrades to mental health facilities in Darwin.

Barkly Region

  • $5.5 million for a new Youth Justice Facility to accommodate young people and prevent incarceration by addressing education, training, healing and integration; and
  • $5 million for a purpose-built drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility to deliver health care, rehabilitation, transitional residential housing and integration services.

East Arnhem Region

  • Upgrades to the Medical Imaging Department at the Gove District Hospital, including installation of a new CT scanner to enhance hospital capability; and
  • Up to $4 million over five years to establish a child and family centre in Gapuwiyak.

Central Australian Region

  • $29 million over 15 years to construct staff accommodation in close proximity to Alice Springs Hospital and assist in retaining a quality workforce; and
  • $11.9 million to build a new multi-storey carpark at Alice Springs Hospital to provide an additional 250 on-site carparks for staff and the public.

Big River Region

  • New consulting rooms in Katherine and upgrades at Borroloola Health Centre.

For an overview of initiatives in each region, see https://budget.nt.gov.au/regional-highlights.

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