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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.