NT Labor defends lack of policies, attacks opponents’ tax cuts ahead of election

The Northern Territory’s Chief Minister has again defended the lack of policy promises made ahead of this weekend’s election, while Labor ramps up attacks based on opponents’ previous stints in office.

Four days out from the vote, Michael Gunner used a visit to a Darwin construction business as the backdrop for a press conference about the Government’s coronavirus stimulus measures but made no further policy announcements.

Labor’s critics have accused it of using the pandemic crisis to avoid debate about its record in office and agenda for a second term.

But Mr Gunner again defended the party’s campaign focus, declaring Saturday’s vote a choice “about who handles the coronavirus crisis from that point on”.

Treasurer Nicole Manison attacked plans by the Country Liberal Party to scrap Labor’s changes to mining tax and the Territory Alliance proposal to suspend payroll tax for two years.

“This is hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of own-source revenue that they’re saying that they are going to cut, how are they going to pay for that?” she said.

In campaign advertising, Labor has raised the spectre of power price hikes implemented by then chief minister Terry Mills after the 2012 election and asset sales and cuts to the public service during the previous Country Liberal Party government.

Ms Manison said Labor had made few new spending commitments “because we know we have to live within our budget, particularly with the challenges we’ve got from coronavirus”.

Labor has spent $424 million on its coronavirus response so far, some of it redirected from other programs, including public housing funding.

Labor ‘should not be lecturing’, Opposition says

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said the party’s policies would be submitted to NT Treasury for costing by Wednesday afternoon but said Labor “should not be lecturing us about fiscal responsibility”.

A financial update published last month showed the Northern Territory’s debt is now forecast to reach $8.2 billion this financial year, an increase of $1.3 billion since the last estimate.

Ms Finocchiaro has previously promised a CLP government would “fix power prices”, protect public service jobs and assured voters the CLP would “not sell public assets”.

But on Tuesday, Ms Finocchiaro would not commit to the cap of $1,000 a year on public service wage increases recommended in the budget repair roadmap.

“Our first order of business if elected on Saturday is to ensure we get the full budget details to Territorians so we can start to make decisions about how to build a better future,” she said.

A full budget will not be produced until November, after Territorians go to the polls.

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