28 June 2023

Address to the Property Council of Australia, Darwin

Address to the Property Council of Australia, Darwin


A better future for the territory

Thank you Eva for that kind introduction and welcome.

It’s a privilege to be hosted by you, Mike, Ruth and the Property Council here this morning –

An honour to be surrounded by leaders from your government, industries, universities –

And a real joy to be back in Darwin again.

To the key sponsors, Inpex, RPS, Rimfire Energy, HWL Ebsworth, Charles Darwin University – thanks for supporting this event.

And to Luke Gosling, for his friendship, for his advocacy, and for inviting me here for a couple of days of engagement.

Later this morning I’m heading out to CDU with him to talk about the care economy –

And to mark the beginning of construction on the new health and education facility our Government has helped to fund.

It’s these kinds of future‑focused investments that characterise so much of what both our governments are about.

We saw that in the $2 billion for NT hospitals and health –

The $4 billion for infrastructure –

And the education initiatives outlined in your Budget –

Delivered the same day as ours.

The ambition and scale of what Eva announced in May goes a long way towards explaining why yours kept ours off the coveted front page of the NT News –

But we’ve gotten over that!

I’m grateful for the partnership Eva and I are building, a frank and open and productive one –

And that same goodwill informs the way that the Prime Minister’s team collaborates with the Chief Minister’s across all areas of government.

I know that our Cabinet, our Ministry –

The terrific team we’ve got in the Top End – Marion, Malarndirri and Luke –

Are thankful and grateful to have such constructive and dedicated counterparts to work with.

The strong relationship between our governments is particularly important when it comes to delivering for the First Nations of the Territory –

And it’s here that I want to acknowledge that we’re gathered on the lands of the Larrakia people –

Towards the beginning of what we know as the dry season, and at the end of what the Larrakia call Damibila.

The Larrakia say that the water lilies and other flowers that are coming into life right now, do so to call in the changing weather –

And in a similar way, we too, as a country, as a community, are actively and purposefully ushering in change –

By listening and learning –

Building together –

And working to deliver a Voice to Parliament later this year.

The Voice is about recognition, it’s about listening –

And it’s also a core part of a larger story that we’re all a part of.

An Australian story about turning the big chances that we have as a country into lasting opportunities for our people –

In a growing, thriving, more competitive, productive economy.

With my time here today, I want to take a bit of time to explore the Territory’s part in that story –

It’s place in the national economy –

And to provide an update on how our most recent Budget is preparing us for the next chapter that we can write together.

NT and the national economy

A big part of that involves addressing the challenges that were reflected in both our Budgets –

None greater than inflation.

We expect it to stay higher than we’d like, for longer than we’d like, but still tracking in the right direction –

Due to fall from 7 per cent recorded in the March quarter this year to 3 ¼ per cent in 2023‑24, before returning to the RBA’s target band the year after.

Here in the NT, CPI reflects these national trends, and you, along with the rest of the country, have been impacted by the response –

The 400‑basis point increase in rates since before the election last year, is the most significant tightening cycle the RBA has undertaken since the inflation targeting era began –

And this, along with global challenges, will significantly slow our economy –

With our expectations for growth going from 3 ¼ per cent this year to 1 ½ per cent in the next.

No state or territory in Australia is immune from these headwinds –

But your Budget papers reflect that the NT is well placed –

With low unemployment –

The highest labour participation rate in the country –

And an outlook which confirms that your traditional strengths in mining, resources and tourism will support your long‑term growth.

Responsible fiscal management

Just as a strong resources sector is crucial to the NT’s future –

Same goes for the country.

One of the big priorities we came into government with was getting the Budget on a more sustainable footing.

And the improvements in revenue that we’ve seen in recent times – driven by a combination of good prices for our exports and a consistently strong labour market –

Have helped us in that task.

But while many governments have benefitted from these kind of improvements –

Not all have used them responsibly –

Or in a way that can help to build the stronger foundations that we need for a better future.

Over both our Budgets, we chose to take this more difficult path –

Returning 82 per cent of revenue improvements in May and 87 per cent across our two Budgets –

Responsibly finding $40 billion worth of savings and reprioritisations –

And restraining annual real spending growth to an average of 0.6 per cent over five years.

We said in May that we expected all this to result in a surplus for 2022‑23 – the first in 15 years –

We were deliberately cautious and conservative, restrained and responsible when it came to this, given this history.

So, I’m pleased to say that two days out from the end of the financial year, we’re still on track.

In fact, we’re in a significantly better position than we forecast.

Today, I can reveal that we’re expecting the surplus will be bigger than forecast in May.

We welcome this – and not because we’ve been waiting to screen print a few thousand bumper stickers –

Or sell a whole bunch of Back in Black mugs –

But because it means delivering on what we’ve set out to do –

Rebuilding our buffers –

And taking more heat out of the economy just as it’s needed to combat inflation.

A better Budget position will help us to build a better economy, and a better country –

One that gives working people the security, stability and prosperity they deserve.

Delivering for the NT

Responsible economic management was and remains a critical part of what we’re doing to shore up the country against the winds that are buffeting us –

But it’s not where our efforts end.

Everybody from the Reserve Bank Governor to the Treasury Secretary has recognised that the work we’ve done to take the edge off power prices, is also taking the edge off inflation –

Lowering it by ¾ of a percentage point next year.

This will make a meaningful difference to Territorians managing strained household budgets –

And with the rest of my time with you today, I want to outline the other big benefits in the Budget for the people of the NT.

This is a Budget that delivers for Territorians during tough times and sets them up for the future:

  • First, through additional responsible and targeted support for those doing it tough.
  • Second, by making investments in the future of NT industries.
  • And third, with new initiatives in skills, migration, and housing to make sure that the Territory, its businesses, and its people, can thrive.

Delivering help to Territorians

First, to help for those doing it tough.

Thanks to our historic investment in Medicare, and because of our determination to deliver responsible, targeted relief:

Around 94,000 Territorians will be able to benefit from free consultations at their GP –

And around 32,000 will get access to cheaper medicines.

Plus, 49,000 of your households will be eligible for the joint relief that we’re delivering to reduce energy bills –

And around 5,000 households will benefit from the largest increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance in 30 years.

All this is designed to offer critical support in difficult times –

But in this Budget, we also wanted to look beyond our immediate challenges –

And to put in place some initiatives that will help to secure the future of Northern Territory industry and set you up for growth –

The second big thing in our Budget for the Territory.

Investing in the future of NT Industries

When the Top End is at the top of its game, so is Australia.

You know it, we know it and I think the rest of the country knows it as well.

That’s why we’re supporting your efforts to leverage the NT’s traditional strengths into new ones.

That starts with your LNG sector.

It’s important for the NT, and it’s important for the country.

That’s a big reason why our PRRT changes were specifically designed to make sure we maintain our key trading relationships, keep supply online, and investment going.

I’m particularly proud of the way we worked through these issues –

With industry, with the NT government –

To reach a proposal that ensures we recognise and respect the future role of gas – and its role in driving us towards net zero –

While delivering Australians a fairer share from the sale of their natural resources, sooner.

Now, we can move forward through the development of our Future Gas Strategy –

Built on a determination to support gas projects that stack up economically and environmentally –

And that meet our regulatory safeguards.

In saying that, we recognise that these processes need to be as streamlined as possible –

For industry, but also for First Nations communities and other impacted groups.

That’s why we acted in the Budget –

Investing $12 million into a review of the regulatory regime governing offshore greenhouse gas storage and petroleum activities.

This will make sure our frameworks remain capable of working out where the common ground in the common good lies –

For industry, for our First Nations communities, and for the NT.

In all this, we recognise that the Territory is both a facilitator and a beneficiary of the clean energy future we’re working towards.

The $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program that we delivered in May, is designed to catalyse flagship green hydrogen projects in Australia –

With the NT well‑placed to take advantage, given your abundant renewable potential.

And given the scale of the opportunities here for the Territory, we’ve chosen to do more –

Allocating $1.5 billion to the sustainable development precinct at Middle Arm Harbour – just half an hour from here.

At Middle Arm, we’ll help build the infrastructure that can play a role in developing the NT’s clean energy economy –

In green hydrogen, ammonia production, critical minerals and more –

So that you can make the most of the opportunities at the intersection of the energy transformation and industry.

But to ultimately realise this potential we need to make sure that we’ve got solid foundations in other areas too –

Particularly in skills, migration, and housing.

Skills, migration and housing

It’s pretty clear that creating new industries, and leveraging traditional strengths into new ones –

Here in the NT and right across the country –

Won’t be possible without the right workforce in the right places.

It’s why, in May, we allocated $3.7 billion for a revamped five‑year national skills agreement with the states and territories –

With a focus on making sure all our workers have the foundational skills that they need.

Training is key – it remains our focus –

And migration is something that we also need to get right – to make it work in our interests.

That understanding is at the heart of Clare O’Neil’s efforts to reform and redesign the system –

So that we can effectively address the skills and labour shortages currently holding NT businesses back –

Issues that we’ll keep on exploring through our Employment White Paper later this year.

But none of these efforts will have the impact that they should –

Unless we build more homes where people can best work.

Our efforts to pass the HAFF are a big part of getting more supply online – and I’d like to thank the Property Council for their support here –

And for the endorsement they’ve given the other parts of our housing agenda too.

The Senate might be blocking the HAFF –

But it can’t block us from doing all that we otherwise can to address this national challenge.

You’ve seen that through the $2 billion in funding to the states to build more social housing we announced earlier this month –

The expansion we made to NHFIC’s capacity to lend to community housing –

New incentives to encourage build‑to‑rent housing projects –

The $1.7 billion offer we’ve made to extend the National Housing and Homeless Agreement with the NT and other states and territories –

And through the work that Eva and all other state and territory Treasurers are doing with us on the Housing Accord –

As we partner with the private sector to deliver one million well‑located homes over five years from 2024.

Just last Friday, Eva and I met with our state and territory colleagues to make some progress towards finalising our plans to achieve this goal –

And I want to thank Eva for the contribution she has, and will continue to make, to our efforts here.


Now, before I finish up and take some questions from Katie, let me make a couple of final reflections.

In Eva’s Budget speech, she described Territorians as strong, innovative, with diverse perspectives and a unique contribution to make to our national economy –

And we couldn’t agree more.

Our job, across both governments, is to make sure that this contribution is fully realised for the betterment of the Territory and for all Australians.

That’s what the cost‑of‑living relief that we delivered in the Budget was about –

It’s what our efforts to get skills, housing and migration right are about –

And it’s why we’re so focussed on fostering the development of NT industry and helping you to lay the foundations for growth.

This work will continue as we enter our second year in government.

Led by my colleague, Madeleine King –

We’ll be refreshing the Northern Australia White Paper –

Something that will feed into a new five‑year action plan –

Injecting further urgency into our agenda to create jobs and drive prosperity here in the Territory.

This agenda will be built on continuing partnership –

With industry, with community, and all of Chief Minister Fyles’ team –

Recognising that lasting opportunity for all those who call this special part of the world home –

Will only be achieved by working together –

For a more secure, prosperous, and resilient NT.

Thanks very much.