Police $1 million a month over budget

THE NT Police Force is running at least $1 million a month over budget and the Health Department expects to spend an extra $4.5 million a month up to May due to the coronavirus pandemic response.

The cost blow-outs were revealed at the first sitting of the NT's parliamentary inquiry into the Gunner government's coronavirus response.

The impact on the NT Government's overall budget remains unknown.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner, badgered by Opposition and Territory Alliance MLAs, said he had directed Treasury bureaucrats to expedite the release of the government's end of financial year report, instead of the usual six weeks.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he has directed Treasury bureaucrats to expedite the release of the government’s end of financial year report. Picture Che Chorley
Chief Minister Michael Gunner says he has directed Treasury bureaucrats to expedite the release of the government’s end of financial year report. Picture Che Chorley

But how badly the NT's revenue has been hit can't be known until the Federal Government releases its budget, Mr Gunner said, because the Territory was heavily reliant on the size of the GST pool.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker revealed at the parliamentary inquiry that the NT Police Force was spending $1 million a month more than its budget allows because of staff overtime.

And Health Department chief executive Catherine Stoddard said the agency, which pulls the largest slice of government funds, was "reshaping its budget" and expected to incur $13.5 million of direct costs until the end of May due to COVID-19, though half of that will be picked up by the Commonwealth.

Mr Gunner also revealed that the National Cabinet had discussed using the Federal Government's tracing app as a "passport", with the possibility of turning away anyone who had yet to download it from public events as more restrictions are eased.

The idea was ultimately quashed because it would have legislative hurdles, the Chief Minister said.

 

Mr Gunner was asked if the NT Government had considered restricting attendance to spectator events, once restrictions are eased on June 5, to people who could show they had downloaded the COVIDsafe tracing app.

He confirmed it had been discussed at National Cabinet but ultimately binned.

"There would have been issues with legislation if we had done that, federally or at a local level under the Anti-Discrimination Act," Mr Gunner said.

Originally published as NT Police Force $1 million a month over budget



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