Coronavirus Australia live updates September 4: Health warnings for Sydney Bunnings and Aldi; Victoria’s daily infections drop but death toll rises; Eight new cases in NSW; No new cases in Queensland overnight; PM’s promise to reunite Australia by Christmas


The Queensland premier has become emotional when asked about criticism over the state’s controversial border closure.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has faced intense scrutiny from the members of the public to the prime minister over the state’s hardline approach.

“Can I thank Queenslanders…I’m really overwhelmed with the number of emails that have been coming into the office, and personally hand-written cards… that’s what keeps me going,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I get up every day and I rely on the best health advice to look after this state.

“My family are very upset, but I tell them to hang in there.”

But she has refused to budge on relaxing border rules except for extending the bubble to include the northern NSW town of Moree.

“Queensland has done extremely well by relying on the expert health advice of Dr Young,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“And let me make it very clear, I will not be changing the course any time soon because you have seen the great results that have been occurring in Queensland.”



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Rebels one win away from history as Waratahs promise to stick to their guns


“The players don’t need to be told about what’s on the line,” Wessels said. “They all want to perform. These are the games you want to be a part of and everyone is excited for that.”

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Both camps have noted there is good “energy” at training this week but that doesn’t always equate to execution on the night as the Waratahs found out when they were beaten 29-10 at the SCG in round four. It was the first time NSW had lost two in a row to the Rebels.

If the Waratahs win with a bonus point, they play finals and the Rebels are out. If NSW lose, they’re gone, given they have the bye next week.

If the Waratahs chalk up a win without a bonus point, the Rebels could still sneak into the top three depending on the margin of victory next week against the Force in the final round.

“I guess there is no elephant in the room. It’s a do-or-die game for us,” NSW halfback Jake Gordon said. “This year we haven’t gone too well against the Rebels. They’ve really dominated us up front and Matt Toomua has been kicking really well for them. Same with Andrew Deegan. The plan is to get some go forward ball and play some expansive rugby which we have been doing.”

The Rebels have been on the road since late June and their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed by the other teams. If they were to miss out on finals, for the third time in as many years in similar fashion, it would be a painstaking blow for not only the team but their coach.

Wessels has come close twice before and while this is a revamped version of Super Rugby with more sides progressing, it will be vindication that hard work has paid off despite some who believe the Rebels and Force haven’t done enough to justify being involved in a trans-Tasman competition.

Gordon may have had his poker face on when explaining the “game plan” to reporters on Friday but said regardless of conditions – it should be a dry track at Leichhardt – the Waratahs will endeavour to play running rugby while seeking to better their unwanted record of being the most ill-disciplined team in the competition with 12.6 penalties per game.

“Our game plan is pretty obvious now, we like to play expansive rugby,” Gordon said. “Looking at the times we did play the Rebels – and not too well – we kind of fell into a trap of probably playing a game they wanted to play. We had poor discipline, so we couldn’t exit from our own end. Both games were quite wet and we didn’t really get a chance to throw the ball around.”

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Gordon also addressed the glowing recommendation from outgoing NSW star Michael Hooper that he could be one to lead the team in 2021.

There are clearly more important things on Gordon’s mind but the 27-year-old is certainly in the running and appreciated the endorsement.

“It’s nice to be acknowledged but I’ll leave that up to the coach and see what happens,” Gordon said.

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The utopian promise and dystopian potential of real-time detection of police, fire, and medical emergencies


In 2014, John Garofolo went to Baltimore to visit Lt. Samuel Hood of the Baltimore Police Department. Garofolo was previously head of Aladdin, a program in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to automate analysis of a massive number of video clips. Garofolo began hosting workshops with members of the AI research community to promote multi-camera tracking systems in 2012. Then the Boston Marathon bombing happened in 2013, and Garofolo joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to continue that work. This research focus led him to visit Baltimore to see the CitiWatch network of 700 cameras in action.

Garofolo said what he saw was horrifying: video of a woman falling into the harbor, where she drowned. Nobody saw the surveillance footage of her fall in time to rescue her.

“They had video of it the next day, but they didn’t know what to look at. If they had known what to look at, she would be alive now,” he said. “And so I thought, ‘We can make technology that can start to address some of these issues — where people are having emergencies — and make it easier for [human] monitors to look at the right video and move from more forensic use of that video to real-time use for emergency response.’”

That’s why Garofolo helped create the Automated Streams Analysis for Public Safety (ASAPS) Challenge. The two-year challenge is based on a large data set being assembled by the federal government to encourage people in the computer vision community to build AI that delivers automated insights for emergency operators working with police, fire, and medical personnel.

Computer-aided dispatch software that emergency operators use today often shows specific information, like reported emergency events, location of emergency service vehicles, and some forms of data visualization. But the goal is to soon enable emergency operators to spot emergencies in action and dispatch police, fire, or medical services. To train AI systems to do this, ASAPS sprinkles events like assaults, medical emergencies, and structure fires into a series of image, audio, and text data created by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and its contractors.

Above: A grid of videos collected from MUTC

Image Credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology

As part of the ASAPS data set creation process, in July 150 people participated in staged emergencies at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC). The participants included 19 stunt actors and 14 public safety officials, Garofolo said. MUTC is located in Butlerville, Indiana. Typically used for military training, MUTC is the largest urban training facility for the Department of Defense in the U.S. In-person staged emergencies produced footage for roughly 30 video cameras and contributed images and video to a collection of up to 15,000 social media posts in the data set.

ASAPS also includes simulated gunshot detection, text from emergency dispatch entries, and more than 50 hours of radio transmissions and 911 calls recorded by actors and actresses. All of the emergencies are set in a mock 200-acre town. The data set is entirely fabricated or staged to give challenge participants a full range of flexibility, NIST R&D program manager Craig Connelly told VentureBeat.

The full data set of synthetic and real emergency events is scheduled to be released this fall. A first look will be shared with challenge participants at virtual workshops scheduled to take place September 23-24.

ASAPS is also unique because it challenges AI practitioners to create systems that can take data from a range of sources and decide whether an emergency is in progress. Garofolo said ASAPS is the largest data set created for live video analysis.

“There’s nothing out there like this right now. All of the challenges out there basically use canned data, and the entirety of the data is presented to the systems so that they can look at everything before they make a decision,” he said. “I doubt that we will completely solve it in the two years of the program. That’s a very short amount of time. But I think that we will create a seed for the growth of this technology and an interest in the community in real-time, multimodal analytics.”

The ASAPS data set was assembled by NIST, a federal agency that does things like analyze facial recognition systems. NIST has developed a plan for federal agencies to create standards for AI systems in concert with private entities.

The ASAPS challenge involves a set of four separate contests: The first two focus on analyzing the time, location, and nature of emergencies, while the last two aim to surface information for first responders in emergency operations centers. To win, teams must design a system with a confidence level of prediction appropriate for bringing an event to the attention of a human operator without raising too many false alarms.

“It’s a little bit like the game of Clue,” Garofolo said. “You run around the board and you have to make a strategic decision about when you declare that you think you know what the answer is. If they declare it too soon and they’re wrong, they’ll get dinged on the metric. If they declare it much later than other participants, they won’t get as high a score on the metric.”

Savior or dystopian surveillance state?

AI that calls for help if you’re attacked in the street or your home is on fire sounds like a dream, but AI that tracks people across multiple camera systems and sends police to your location could be a dystopian nightmare.

Black Lives Matter protests that started in June and continue today are historic in their size and reach. A policy platform created by Black community organizations calls for a reduction in the surveillance of Black communities and recognition of the role surveillance plays in systematic racism. But you don’t have to think far beyond Baltimore to understand how potential applications of AI like the kind ASAPS is looking to produce could raise concern.

AI has already been used in Baltimore for more than finding people who fall into the harbor. CitiWatch doesn’t just use city-owned cameras installed in public places but also cameras from partners like Johns Hopkins University and even those owned by private businesses or citizens.

When protests and civil unrest broke out in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015, law enforcement used numerous forms of surveillance, such as cell phone tracking tech and Geofeedia for monitoring people on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Working in tandem with CitiWatch cameras on the ground, a surveillance plane flew over the city. In a lawsuit filed earlier this year to stop police use of Aerial Investigation Research (AIR), the ACLU called the program “the most wide-reaching surveillance dragnet ever employed in an American city.”

Police also used facial recognition to identify people from camera footage and social media photos. Former House Oversight and Reform committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said use of facial recognition at protestors and evidence of discriminatory bias in facial recognition systems were part of the reason he decided to call a series of Congressional hearings last year to discuss facial recognition regulation. According to a NIST study, facial recognition systems are more likely to misidentify Asian Americans and people with darker skin tones than they are white people.

Democrats and Republicans have decried use of facial recognition at protests or political rallies for its potentially chilling effect on people’s constitutional right to free speech. But in recent weeks, police in Miami and New York have used facial recognition to identify protesters accused of crimes. Further inflaming fears of a mounting surveillance state, predictive policing from companies like Palantir used in cities like Los Angeles and New Orleans have been shown to demonstrate racial bias. Globally, projects like Sidewalk Labs in Toronto and the deployment of Huawei 5G smart city solutions to dozens of nations around the world have also sparked concerns about surveillance and the spread of authoritarianism.

Garofolo said facial recognition and license plate reading were purposely kept out of the challenge, due to privacy concerns. He also said he’s already been approached by a surveillance company that wants to use ASAPS, but he turned down the request. Indeed, NIST requires challenge participants to only use the data for emergency analysis. Participants can track individuals across multiple cameras but are unable to identify their faces.

“We’ve gone to great pains to preserve privacy and the challenge. We realize that, like any technology, it can be used for good or bad. We need to start to see policy developed for the use of these technologies. That’s beyond what we’re doing in ASAPS, but I think ASAPS will illustrate the challenge, and hopefully we will get some good discussion about it,” Garofolo said.

However, even if anonymized, an AI system that views an alleged assault caught on camera, for example, could increase the likelihood that a person of color comes into contact with police.

As we’ve seen this week when James Blake was shot in the back seven times in Wisconsin, any scenario that puts people into contact with police can be deadly, especially for Black people. A Northeastern University study released earlier this year found that Black people are twice as likely to die from police shootings as white people are.

There’s also the risk of mission creep, in which surveillance technology acquired for one purpose is later used for another. The most recent examples come from San Diego, where smart street lamps were initially supposed to be used for gathering traffic and environmental data. Then police started requesting access to footage — first only for serious, violent crimes, but eventually for smaller infractions, like illegal dumping. The San Diego Police Department put policy in place to prohibit application of facial recognition or license plate readers from being used on camera footage, but they also requested video from Black Lives Matter protests.

The San Diego City Council is now considering whether to create a privacy advisory commission or enact a formal surveillance technology adoption policy that would review the adoption of new tech and government officials’ use of existing tech. Surveillance technology review policies haven’t yet become commonplace for city governments, but major California cities Oakland and San Francisco adopted such laws in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

China, computer vision, and surveillance systems

Garofolo started promoting use of multi-camera surveillance systems at conferences like the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) in 2012. (CVPR is one of the largest annual AI research conferences in the world, according to the AI Index 2019 report.) To move toward a goal of promoting ASAPS among members of the computer vision community, Garofolo and Connelly joined the AI City Challenge workshop at CVPR in June.

The AI City Challenge was created to solve traffic operations challenges with AI and make smart public transportation systems. One 2020 challenge, for example, focuses on the detection of stalled cars or traffic accidents on the freeway. Roughly 30 teams participated in the inaugural challenge in 2017. This year saw 800 individual researchers on 300 teams from 36 nations; 72 teams ultimately submitted final code.

AI City Challenge has always been an international competition that welcomes teams from around the world. But since its launch, virtually all of the winning teams have been from China and the United States. Teams from the University of Washington and University of Illinois took top honors in 2017. In 2018, a University of Washington team took first place in two of three competitions, with a team from Beijing University in second place. This year, a team from Carnegie Mellon University won a single competition, but teams from Chinese universities and companies like Baidu won three out of four contests, and Chinese teams captured most runner-up spots, as well.

Garofolo said he believes the 2020 AI City Challenge results make “a statement in terms of where we are in terms of our competitiveness in the U.S. You go to CVPR and you can see that a great [number] of the minds in the workforce in AI are now coming from overseas. I think that’s an important issue that concerns all of us. And so ASAPS is hopefully going to provide one of many different research venues for American scientists and American organizations to be competitive,” Garofolo said.

ASAPS challenges award up to $150,000, and since the prize money comes from the U.S. government, participating teams must be led by an individual, business, or university from the United States.

Researchers have made headlines in recent months as tensions mount between China and the U.S. Disputes over researcher activity led to the closure of a Chinese embassy in Texas, and Republicans in Congress have criticized Microsoft and Google in the past year for allegedly working with Chinese military researchers. Since the economy and China are key issues for the Trump 2020 reelection campaign, similar disputes may continue to emerge in the months ahead.

But despite tech nationalism on the political stage, cooperation between researchers has continued. At the close of the AI City Challenge workshop, organizers said they’re considering a competition involving live video analysis that would be more like ASAPS.

The ASAPS challenge will take place over the next two years. Security for edge devices and privacy considerations for emergency detection challenges could motivate future challenges with the data set, Garofolo said.



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PM’s broken promise could cost couple’s $200k


Scott Morrison has dropped his biggest hint that he is considering dumping the super increase in a move that Labor warns could cost young couples up to $200,000.

The Prime Minister confirmed today that he was considering delaying the legislated increase to workers superannuation from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent to protect jobs.

But he stressed that he “hoped” it would not be necessary. Mr Morrison said he would make a final decision on the basis of what was the best decision to protect workers’ employment in the COVID-19 economy.

“I will do and the government will do what is in the best interests of people getting jobs and staying in jobs,’’ he said on Friday.

“You’ve got to look at the situation as you find it. The situation today is different to what it was previously. That doesn’t necessarily mean you go down that path but you have to deal with the situation as you find it. Not as we would like it to be.”

If it is scrapped, it would represent dumping a legislated 2.5 per cent pay increase for every worker in Australia and would require legislation to take the money away from workers’ nest eggs.

But Labor has warned the impact on retirement incomes over a lifetime could be as much as $200,000 for a young couple in their 30s today.

RELATED: Minister’s trainwreck COVID interview

Last month, news.com.au exclusively revealed a Treasury report will warn that Australian workers face years of lower wages if the legislated increase to superannuation in the post COVID-economy proceeds.

The superannuation guarantee is set to increase to 10 per cent in July 2021, before rising to 12 per cent in 2025.

According to the confidential 650-page report, there’s a “trade off” between super increases and wage increases and workers would face years of even lower wages if it goes ahead.

“I am aware of the commentary by everybody from the Reserve Bank governor who said continuing those arrangements would be bad for employment,’’ the Prime Minister said today.

“And it is the circumstances that have occurred since the election which have made that the case.”

Mr Morrison also referenced his pre-election pledge that he would not dump the super guarantee.

“Prior to the election, it was certainly my view, and I articulated that those were legislated changes, increases, and we had no plans to change any of those and that was certainly our view,’’ he said.

“COVID-19 has occurred and people’s jobs are at risk. But that said it’s something the government needs to carefully consider.

“This doesn’t come into effect until July of next year so I don’t think there’s any undue haste that is needed here to consider these issues.

“I hope, I would certainly hope, that and I am an optimist, that by May of next year we would be looking at a very different situation. I hope we are.”

RELATED: PM to crack whip on border closures

Labor’s superannuation spokesman Stephen Jones said it was now clear the Prime Minister did not intend to keep his word.

“It’s clear that he intends to break his promise,’’ he said.

“They are using COVID as a cover. They have been planning this since they started the Retirement Income Review.”

Mr Jones said it was no accident that there had been a steady stream of Liberal MPs calling for the super increase to be scrapped or frozen.

“All those backbenchers have been out on a licensed revolt,’’ he said.

“It will cost a 30 year old couple a massive $150,000 to $200,000 in retirement savings. How can the PM take 15 per cent (in super) while arguing the person cleans his office should only get 9.5 per cent?”



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Backflip on NT Government promise to repeal ‘manifestly unfair’ paperless arrest laws


Controversial powers allowing Northern Territory police to arrest people for minor offences instead of issuing on-the-spot fines will remain in place following a backflip by the Labor Government.

As opposition leader, Chief Minister Michael Gunner promised to repeal the Country Liberal government’s so-called paperless arrest powers after the NT coroner called for them to be scrapped.

A month before he was elected, Mr Gunner said in a speech to Arnhem Land’s Garma Festival the powers were “bad laws” that would be abolished if Labor won office.

But the ABC has confirmed the promise to repeal the laws has been dropped and will not be pursued if Labor wins another term at this weekend’s election.

In a statement, the Chief Minister’s office said Mr Gunner’s position changed “during this term after consultation with police”.

A spokesman said police use of the powers had reduced in line with alcohol reforms introduced by the Government but did not provide evidence of the decline.

David Woodroffe from the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency described the move as “extremely disappointing” and said the laws had a tragic history.

“It’s a bad law because it leads to the over-representation of vulnerable Aboriginal men and women going into police custody.”

The NT coroner’s call for the powers to be repealed came at the 2015 inquest into the death of 59-year-old Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Langdon in the Darwin city watch house after he was arrested for drinking in public.

Coroner Greg Cavanagh described the powers — which allow police to detain people for up to four hours and release them without charge — as “manifestly unfair” and irreconcilable with the recommendations of the Aboriginal deaths-in-custody royal commission.

Powers address ‘anti-social behaviour’: CLP

The coroner said the powers and a police operation targeting public drinking at the time of Mr Langdon’s arrest had increased the numbers of Indigenous people being taken into custody.

In his 2015 comments, Mr Gunner said the powers had put extra pressure on the front line and the laws would be replaced with “a better regime that takes pressure off police”.

NT Police did not respond to a question about Labor’s claim its decision to retain the powers came after discussions with the agency.

A police spokesperson provided statistics showing a 27 per cent decrease in the use of the powers between 2017 (3,133) and 2019 (2,315).

The figures show Indigenous people made up 87 per cent of those arrested by police using paperless arrest powers last year, compared to around 70 per cent at the time of the coronial inquest.

The figure is potentially higher because Indigenous status was not recorded in a proportion of cases.

David Woodroffe said he was calling on the Government to explain and reconsider its decision.

Former CLP attorney-general John Elferink described the laws as “a form of catch and release” allowing police to “take people out of circulation”, but the High Court held they did not empower police to detain people for longer than is reasonably practical.

The Gunner Government’s alcohol reforms include the expansion of a program stationing auxiliary police officers outside regional bottle shops and extended operating hours of sobering up shelters.

A spokesman for the Country Liberal Party said the powers are “an important mechanism for police to deal with antisocial behaviour” and would be retained by a CLP government.

The Territory Alliance party said the powers had not been the subject of policy consideration and would be reviewed if the party won office.

In the speech at the Garma Festival, Michael Gunner also promised to repeal the previous government’s alcohol protection orders and mandatory alcohol treatment regime, which Labor has done.

But a commitment to abolish mandatory sentencing was also shelved during Labor’s term, with Attorney-General Natasha Fyles extending the timeframe for a review beyond the election to 2021.



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Territory Alliance turns down NT Treasury offer to get election promise costings assessed


Territory Alliance — one of two major parties vying to topple Labor in the Northern Territory election — says it will not be putting its election promise costings forward to the NT Treasury for assessment.

Party leader Terry Mills previously supported the idea, but blamed “scarce resources” for the recent about-face.

He said he would prefer to focus on “getting our policies right”.

“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 20/21 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,” he said.

“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.”

The NT Government has delayed the release of its budget until months after Saturday’s election, citing uncertainties related to the coronavirus crisis.

A financial update released late last month predicted the territory’s net debt would balloon from $6.9 billion to $8.2 billion this financial year.

On the same day Mr Mills promised Territory Alliance would get its election commitments assessed.

“Yes of course we will, I think it’s important because the essential part of this is to make sure that Territorians can trust those that they elect to lead them through this very challenging path ahead,” Mr Mills said on July 29.

CLP misses initial deadline

An NT Treasury spokeswoman said the department wrote to all major parties offering to assess their election commitment costings.

All parties were initially expected to respond to Treasury’s offer by last Friday, but that was extended after the Country Liberals missed the deadline.

Country Liberals leader Lia Finocchiaro said on Monday the party had not received the offer from Treasury, but the party later confirmed there had been a mix-up.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro has been a vocal critic of Territory Labor’s financial management.(ABC News: Callum McLaughlin)

“I’ve only been made aware in the last couple of days that we received the letter,” Ms Finocchiaro said on Wednesday morning.

“Of course we will prepare all of that information and submit it to Treasury.”

The CLP had until Wednesday afternoon to submit its figures.

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.

Labor said it did not need to get its commitments separately costed because they were all contained in last month’s financial update.

“Our election commitment costings are already out,” a spokeswoman for Treasurer Nicole Mansion said.

Treasury said it would use “all endeavours” to publish its assessment of the party costings on Thursday, two days before final polling on Saturday.

More than 42 per cent of NT voters had cast their ballots through early, remote and postal voting by the end of Wednesday.



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NT election promise tracker – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)


Posted

August 20, 2020 16:57:21

Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner, Country Liberal Party leader Lia Finocchiaro and Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills are vying for your vote this Saturday August 22. Here are some of the key promises made in the lead-up to polling day.

Budget repair

Fixing the Northern Territory’s deepening budget crisis will be a major challenge for whoever wins government, with debt now set to hit $8.2 billion this year based on current figures.

Halfway through Labor’s term, a review found successive Territory governments had racked up deficits in good times and bad and said without a slashing of spending, debt would spiral to $35 billion by 2030.

A budget repair plan outlined by former WA under-treasurer John Langoulant made 74 recommendations to rein in spending and grow private investment to reduce the NT’s reliance on federal funding.

Labor said a third of the recommendations had been fully implemented by March this year, including a 10 per cent reduction in public service executives and a freeze on the salaries of executives and politicians.

CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro said department chief executives who overspent their budgets would have their contracts terminated — a similar policy to Labor, although the government is yet to use the option.

The Opposition and Territory Alliance say they would review the budget repair roadmap and decide what recommendations to implement once they get a clearer picture of the current state of finances.

All parties insist they will not cut the public service or sell assets.

On the revenue side, Territory Alliance plans to suspend payroll tax for the next two years and the CLP says it will overhaul the mining tax model and “investigate” stamp duty reductions for owner-occupiers.

Jobs and economy

The Northern Territory economy has been in decline since the end of the Inpex gas boom and shrank 1.5 per cent in the last reported financial year.

The pandemic has further weakened the NT economy.

All sides say they will find ways to boost private investment in the NT and diversify the economy.

Labor says it will take its pandemic recovery cues from the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission it set up in May, but the commission’s full report is not due until after the election.

Based on the panel’s first report, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he had asked department chief executives to prepare advice for the incoming government on ways to speed up approval processes.

The CLP says it will create an Approvals Fast-Track Taskforce to halve approval times across government.

The Opposition also says it will create an Office of the Territory Coordinator to steer major projects through government processes to approval while Territory Alliance has promised a similar position dedicated to resources projects.

The CLP plans to reduce tax on mining by scrapping the hybrid model introduced by Labor, while Labor says the hybrid model is not deterring investment and will stay.

Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills says he will elevate the agriculture portfolio to the Chief Minister if he wins office and has promised to focus on diversification of pastoral leases.

Crime and justice

Crime rates are a perennial election issue and Labor went to the last poll promising to fix the “broken” youth justice system.

Labor says it has made a raft of reforms over its term to “break the cycle of reoffending”, but also struck a tougher-on-crime tone in June with a list of late-term extra measures.

The government says it will increase bail compliance checks, subject the families of young offenders to court orders and review penalties for property crime.

It also says it will expand its Back on Track diversion programs but has not announced extra funding.

The CLP has promised changes to the Bail Act to create a presumption against bail for “repeat” offenders and mandatory electronic monitoring where bail is granted.

The Opposition also promises to shift youth justice away from Territory Families and spend $5 million on a new youth boot camp in Alice Springs.

Territory Alliance says it will introduce a youth curfew in Alice Springs within 100 days of winning government and a new “community court”.

Despite promises made before the last election, Labor has not repealed mandatory sentencing or so-called “paperless arrest” laws.

The CLP says the police portfolio will be held by the Chief Minster and has promised continuous police recruitment as well as increased penalties for assaults on police.

Gas and fracking

Both Labor and the CLP say they will push ahead with the development of the NT’s onshore gas reserves.

Both say they will implement all 135 recommendations of the scientific inquiry commissioned by Labor, which found the risks associated with fracking could be mitigated if all the recommended measures were taken.

Labor says the industry will cover the cost of its regulations while the Country Liberals say taxpayer funding is “necessary and prudent”.

By contrast, Territory Alliance has promised to ban fracking if it is elected.

Leader Terry Mills says no new exploration or production permits will be issued under a Territory Alliance government.

The NT Greens are also anti-fracking, as are sitting independents Yingiya Guyula (running in Mulka) and Scott McConnell (Braitling).

Climate and environment

All three main parties are committed to targets of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050, but only Territory Alliance says it will enshrine the targets into law.

The NT Greens say the NT should be aiming for 100 per cent renewables by 2030.

Neither Labor nor the CLP has a plan yet for offsetting the greenhouse emissions resulting from fracking, a strategy that must be developed if all the scientific inquiry’s recommendations are to be implemented as promised.

The bushfire threat posed by gamba grass has prompted a $20 million allocation from Territory Alliance for a gamba grass reduction plan, led by a commissioner working out of the Chief Minister’s department.

Labor says it will put $500,000 toward a 45-person Gamba Army to target parks in and near greater Darwin while the CLP says it will task the Weeds Branch of the Environment Department with developing a “comprehensive crown land eradication plan”. 

On water security, Labor has promised “a long-term, comprehensive water strategy” if it is re-elected.

None of the main parties has committed to safe drinking water laws, which campaigners say are needed so remote communities can hold governments to account.

Territory Alliance says it would spend $150 million connecting Manton Dam to Darwin’s existing drinking water supply and guarantee rural residents’ access to existing groundwater entitlements.

Like the Territory Alliance, the CLP is also promising rainwater tank subsidies, and the CLP Opposition has ruled out the metering of private bores.

The CLP says it will fast-track a major water supply infrastructure project for Darwin but says the project will not be identified until feasibility work is done later this year.

Society

Policies relating specifically to Aboriginal communities are under the “Aboriginal Affairs” tab, but there is also overlap with this section.

Labor promised to modernise the NT’s Anti-Discrimination Act but has since put the work off into a second term, while neither the CLP nor Territory Alliance have committed to change.

Only the Greens have committed to the Anti-Racism Strategy proposed by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.

Labor says it has committed to altruistic surrogacy in the next term, as has Territory Alliance.

The CLP has outlined a five-point plan for Territory seniors that includes a framework to tackle elder abuse and advocacy for rent reductions through the Commonwealth Rental Assistance Scheme.

Labor and the Opposition are also on the record supporting the NT’s right to legislate on euthanasia, an issue on which seniors’ groups want a future NT Government to advocate.

Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills has previously expressed opposition to euthanasia but said the party would conduct conscience votes.

The CLP says sex work businesses should be restricted to operating in non-residential areas.

For international students, the CLP has promised to review tuition fees for non-citizens attending Territory Government schools.

Infrastructure

None of the main parties are ready to go with any new major infrastructure projects ahead of this election.

Labor is sticking to projects previously announced such as the $400 million ship lift to be built in Darwin.

Territory Alliance says if elected it will spend $100 million on school infrastructure upgrades over four years.

The CLP says it will fund a “rip and reform” program to improve unsealed roads while they wait for sealing funds but has not promised a dollar figure.

The Opposition has also promised to “upgrade trouble spots” like Darwin’s Berrimah Road and Tiger Brennan Drive intersection as part of a “comprehensive roads plan”.

On electricity infrastructure, the CLP says it will commission a cost-benefit analysis of connecting the NT’s two electricity grids to the national system.

It has also promised to progress the large-scale water infrastructure project for Darwin mentioned in the “Climate and Environment” tab above.

Children and education

Labor says it will expand its Families as First Teachers program to four more remote communities if it wins the election, taking the total number to 57.

The CLP says it will reinstate truancy officers as a way of addressing non-attendance and start a phonics trial “to boost literacy”.

The Opposition also says it will “consider” additional services to address the shortage of school counsellors.

For international students, the CLP has promised to review tuition fees for non-citizens attending Territory Government schools.

The Territory Alliance says the $100 million it has promised for school infrastructure will be distributed on a needs basis.

Labor is re-establishing the Remote Area Teacher Education program to support more Aboriginal Territorians into teaching work.

Health

Territory Alliance says it would begin plans for a new Alice Springs hospital that would be delivered by 2032 but it has not estimated the cost of the project.

It also says it would consult with the Aboriginal medical sector about creating mobile primary health teams to support remote clinics.

The CLP is promising to establish a cardiothoracic surgery program at Royal Darwin Hospital and to “investigate the viability” of mobile surgeries to visit remote clinics.

On alcohol policy, Territory Alliance has flagged the possible return of forced treatment for people repeatedly entering protective custody for being drunk in public.

Terry Mills says the party will keep the Banned Drinker Register and floor price in place until focus is “gradually” shifted to individuals with alcohol addiction.

The CLP says it will review the Banned Drinker Register and scrap the floor price.

Territory Alliance also says it will get funding from the Commonwealth for a dedicated ice rehab centre in Darwin.

Territory Alliance also says it will provide $5 million in seed funding to establish a medicinal cannabis industry in the NT and will legalise and regulate vaping, as part of efforts to have the lowest smoking rates in the nation in five years’ time.

Aboriginal affairs

All three main political parties say they support the development of a treaty or treaties with Aboriginal people in the NT.

The extent of that support is yet to be tested — consultations are still at an early stage, with the Treaty Commission not due to deliver a final report until 2022.

In the meantime, both the CLP and Territory Alliance have promised to honour the Local Decision-Making Agreements signed by Labor over its term.

North east Arnhem Land independent Yingiya Mark Guyula successfully campaigned on the issue of treaty in the 2016 election and says he will continue to advocate for “genuine” agreements.

Mr Guyula is also advocating for the resourcing of Yolngu authorities for policing and managing community disputes, decentralisation of the Northern Land Council’s decision making, regional control of bilingual school curriculums, support for homelands and fair negotiations with mining companies leaving Nhulunbuy and Groote Eylandt.

Labor has promised to update its Aboriginal Affairs Strategy to incorporate the new Closing the Gap targets.

Territory Alliance says within 100 days of winning office, it will set up a Chief Minister’s Aboriginal Reference Group, a body that would advise on how a Voice to the NT Parliament could work.

The Alliance says it would also immediately “strengthen” the Treaty Commissioner’s office but provides no further detail.

The CLP has promised to develop an Aboriginal community-controlled peak housing body and to create models where tenancy management and maintenance is performed in communities.

The CLP says it will work with land councils and traditional owners to publish a prospectus of development opportunities across the Aboriginal estate.

Regional and remote

On remote housing, the CLP says it would continue with Labor’s $1.1 billion ten-year housing fund and has promised to develop an Aboriginal community-controlled peak housing body.

Territory Alliance says it commits to working with the Commonwealth to meet the housing sector’s call for 250 net additional urban social and affordable homes over the next four years.

Alliance leader Terry Mills says he would elevate the agriculture portfolio to the Chief Minister if he wins office and has promised to focus on diversification of pastoral leases.

Territory Alliance has also promised $10 million for a cotton processing facility in the Katherine region, while the CLP has promised to “facilitate” the project’s construction.

The CLP has also promised money for a new cattle industry marketing strategy and $250,000 for a farming business case around Gunn Point.

Arts and recreation

The creative industries inject $735 million into the NT economy each year and employ 2400 people, according to the first strategy for the NT sector released in June.

Labor says it will support the development of an industry body and has promised to fund a feasibility study into a local textile manufacturing hub.

Negotiations have stalled on Labor’s bid to build a $50 million National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs, with the Government unable to secure its preferred site at Anzac Oval.

Territory Alliance says it will lock in a different site for the gallery within 100 days of winning government but is still exploring alternatives.

The CLP says it will build the institution at the Alice Springs Desert Park as a “first priority”.

The Opposition has also committed $4 million to revamp the Katherine Museum.

For recreational fishers, Territory Alliance says it will spend $40 million over four years upgrading existing infrastructure.

Labor has promised new land-based fishing platforms in the greater Darwin region but has not committed funding.

For hunters, the CLP has promised to create a new waterfowl hunting reserve to ease overcrowding at existing areas.

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NT Government more than $200 million short on remote Indigenous housing promise


The Northern Territory Labor Government has spent just a third of what it promised at the 2016 election on remote Indigenous housing in the first three years of its signature scheme.

It has also failed to report on its own benchmarks for success, making it impossible to tell if the target of 600 extra rooms a year has been met.

Central Land Council (CLC) policy manager Dr Josie Douglas said the underspend had impacted the lives of remote Aboriginal Territorians, who had been let down on housing by successive governments.

The CLC is one of four Northern Territory Aboriginal land councils calling for an overhaul of the management of remote housing.

“Aboriginal people in remote communities are still waiting, and they’ve been waiting for decades,” she said.

Outgoing Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy and Michael Gunner in Ramingining.(ABC News: Sara Everingham)

In December 2015, in the remote community of Ngukurr, then opposition leader Michael Gunner toured homes and committed to “unprecedented” investment by a Northern Territory Government in remote Indigenous housing.

He promised $1.1 billion over 10 years, or $110 million per year, for extensions, upgrades, repairs and new homes.

“It’s critical we get housing right; it’s the main physical disruption to healthy people, to mental wellbeing, to getting kids to school, to getting people trained and to work, we have to get it right when it comes to housing,” he said at the time.

Once in government, Labor began rolling out its housing program in July 2017. According to the promise, $330 million should have been spent on the program over the first three years.

But the latest figures on an NT Government accountability website show that at May 31 this year — two years and 11 months into the scheme — total expenditure on the program was just $112.3 million.

The Government had also fallen short on a component of the program that promised to deliver new housing for local Indigenous employees. Three years into the scheme, not a single local Aboriginal recruit has moved in.

Silence on 600-room promise

Four residents, a dog, two tents and a green house are pictured
The Housing Minister says there have been “setbacks” such as “the lack of serviced lots on which to build”.

 (ABC News: Lucy Marks)

Prior to the election, Labor said the program would deliver “a minimum of 600 additional rooms per year to housing in the bush” and it promised simplicity and accountability in remote housing delivery.

“I think the 600-room benchmark is probably the most important target we can have,” Mr Gunner said at the time.

The NT Government has since gone quiet on this target — it does not report the number of total additional rooms built under the program, instead reporting additional bedrooms; and it declined to specify if the new bedrooms were extra or replaced those in homes being demolished.

According to the NT Government’s original commitment, three years into the scheme, 1800 rooms should have been delivered.

Available figures show up until the end of May, 2020, 621 new bedrooms were completed, but that figure also takes into account Federally-funded programs.

The NT Government has not provided the true number of rooms delivered through its program.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy speak to Milikapiti resident Joseph Tweedy Henry.
Mr Gunner committed to “unprecedented” investment in remote Indigenous housing before winning government.(ABC News: Sara Everingham)

A spokesperson for NT Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy said: “We have built, upgraded and extended 2,124 homes (completed or underway) with a further 470 homes in planning stage.”

But that figure includes Commonwealth funding. The actual number for completed builds and upgrades funded by the NT Government to June 30 is 367.

“It is very hard to work out the spend, in terms of whether it’s Commonwealth dollars being spent, or NT Government dollars being spent,” Dr Douglas said.

Mr McCarthy declined multiple interview requests. His office also did not directly respond to detailed questions about the housing spending and progress of the program.

In a statement, Mr McCarthy said he was proud of the work that had been done so far.

“The Territory Labor Government’s remote housing program is just three years into a 10-year program. There have been setbacks to the rollout of housing such as the lack of serviced lots on which to build,” Mr McCarthy said.

“For reasons such as this, our remote housing program has had to be flexible and evolving.”

Mr McCarthy also said the Government had a holistic approach to housing, including Aboriginal employment and consultation with remote communities.

“Aboriginal Business Enterprises have received $70 million worth of remote housing contracts and are recording 47 per cent Aboriginal employment,” Mr McCarthy said.



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‘No fracking’ a Territory Alliance promise hard to keep


By ERWIN CHLANDA

“No fracking in the NT” is a brave promise by the Territory Alliance but one that may be hard to keep if it wins government at next week’s election.

There is a clue in the second sentence of the party’s policy position paper: “Under Territory Alliance there will be no more fracking in the Northern Territory.”

Not any fracking or no more?

This comes next: “Existing exploration licences will not be renewed, and no more production permits will be issued.”

It seems clear this could only happen with legislative changes that would expose the horrendously indebted Territory to massive compensation claims from the oil and gas industry.

Says the Department of Primary Industry and Resources, responding to questions from the Alice Springs News: “When a commercially viable petroleum discovery is made exploration permit holders have a legal right to a production licence.”

There are few production leases: A producing oil and gas field (OL4) at Mereenie west of town; producing gas fields at Palm Valley (west, OL3) and Dingo (south of town, L7); and a gas discovery (RL3) at Ooraminna, also south.

But there are huge areas south and north-east of town under exploration permits (see purple areas on the map).

There are conditions for production licences but they are clearly not insurmountable.

Says the department: “An exploration permit holder must apply for a production licence and undergo assessment including an ‘appropriate person test’ as required under the Petroleum Act.

“A production licence is a form of tenure, it does not solely authorise the holder of the licence to produce petroleum for commercial operations.

“A licence holder must also seek activity approval to drill production wells or undertake production activity under the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations, amongst other approvals.

“A production licence is granted for 21 or 25 years in accordance with the Petroleum Act.”

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has declined to comment but a source speaking on condition of not being named says if a Territory Alliance government rules out fracking as part of the conditions for production, the issue would almost certainly finish up in court: Companies have explored in good faith with Gunner government approvals, after it lifted the moratorium it had campaigned on during the 2016 election.

In NSW the government canceled exploration permits, but faced heavy buy-back costs, says the source.

Meanwhile according to the Australian LNG Monthly lower oil prices are having a significant effect on Australian LNG with extended maintenance, continued cargo deferrals, lower prices and asset write-downs. LNG revenues are down 52% on a year ago.

We have asked Matt Paterson to comment. He is the Territory Alliance candidate for Namatjira, where significant areas are under exploration permits.

Photo at top is part of the cover of the party’s policy position paper.



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Michael Vaughan’s ‘naked promise for Rahkeem Cornwall


England appear headed towards a third Test win after running through the West Indies for 197, a lead of 172 on the first innings.

After rain threatened to snatch the second Test match before England pulled off a famous win, the third Test also has weather threatening to steal a win from the jaws of victory.

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A masterclass of bowling from Ashes enemy and England star Stuart Broad, who took 6/31 to decimate the Windies has the home side on the verge of a come-from behind series win.

Broad now has 497 Test wickets and should break through the five hundred mark if all goes well in the second innings.

But while the Poms were showing their authority on the scoreboard, the world was still taken by the sight of 140kg West Indian cult hero Rakheem Cornwall.

The off-break bowler measures in at 198cm tall but and has captured the imagination of the cricketing world.

Earlier in the match, Cornwall took a ripper of a catch to dismiss English opener Rory Burns for 57 in the first innings.

The sight of the big bopper pulling off a speccy in the cordon was the content cricket fans were here for.

But the sight of him in his batting gear had fans enjoying the show as he dwarfed his batting partner Shane Dowrich who was a lot smaller than his imposing partner.

And as Cornwall started his innings, former England skipper Michael Vaughan was getting maybe a little too excited.

Trying to keep him to his world, the BBC’s Test Match Special reported Vaughan said: “If Rahkeem Cornwall gets a century I‘ll break the COVID rules and go shake his hand on the pitch … naked.”

Luckily for both Vaughan and the world, the West Indian cult hero wasn’t able to launch a rescue mission as Broad claimed Cornwall’s wicket with a plumb LBW.

While he was able to get away a boundary and went aerial to score his runs, the cricketing world wanted more of their new favourite cricketer.

Hopefully Cornwall can have an impact with the ball.

Having taken 13 wickets in his previous two Test matches against India and Afghanistan in 2019, Cornwall went wicketless for 85 runs in 27 overs in England’s first innings.

He may also be needed with the bat as well with the commentators reporting rain was coming and that the West Indies may need to bat to save the game over the next two days.



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