ABC Radio Darwin
13 February 2018
Topics: Darwin City Deal.
Adam Steer: Minister, when are you going to come to Darwin to sign a deal?
Paul Fletcher: Well, I've written to Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis a couple of weeks ago asking to meet with them and we're working with their offices now to work out a time, but it looks likely that I'll be in Darwin in early March. That'll be for some introductory discussions. So, I've been in the portfolio since just before Christmas and obviously during that time and indeed since halfway through last year when the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister announced the joint intention to negotiate a city deal and in due course to enter into one, since that time Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government officials have been working away steadily. There was a meeting in Darwin in December for example and I think the Northern Territory Government officials were here in Canberra early this month.
We're at the stage in relation to the City Deal in Darwin of identifying the potential elements of it. So city deals can take quite some time to work through. To give you one example, we're also working on a city deal for Western Sydney. Now the intention to enter into that was announced by the Prime Minister and New South Wales Premier in mid-2016 and we're still working through that. We're getting close to being in a position to announce the outcomes, but I simply make the point that it can take some time and it's important to take the time so that we can work through with the three relevant levels of government: the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory Government, and the Darwin City Council. We can identify the possible elements of the deal and work out the best way to approach it.
Adam Steer: The Northern Territory Government has put up a $100 million commitment, they would like the Federal Government to match that spend. Is that going to happen? Will you put up $100 million?
Paul Fletcher: Well, I think we're at the stage at the moment of identifying the possible elements of the deal. So, it's really premature to be talking about financial commitments. I mean, what the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister…
Adam Steer: But can we have a ball park figure? Is it 50 million, 100 million, 20 million?
Paul Fletcher: Well, again, what the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister said when they announced the intention to enter into a city deal was that the priorities would include help transforming Darwin into a world class tropical tourist and cultural destination; improve housing affordability; improve the liveability, amenity, and attractiveness of the city centre. So, these are some of the areas of priority that we're working through and—be it in Darwin or in the other city deals we're working on around the country—the first priority is to identify what the relevant elements of the deal are going to be.
The whole intention here is that we get three levels of government working together identifying agreed priorities and then the commitments to be made by each level of government to achieve those priorities. So that's the process we're working through and we'll take the time that's necessary to do that. I am looking forward to being in Darwin early next month to have some initial discussions with the Chief Minister and the Lord Mayor. Obviously, I've been in the portfolio since just before Christmas. I've been taking the time to get myself briefed on the work that's been done to date. I'm looking forward to having some initial face to face discussions and that's the stage we're at. It is important that we take the time to get this right.
Adam Steer: The Prime Minister has recently announced deals for Hobart and Geelong. They're listed on the Federal Government website alongside Western Sydney, Townsville, and Launceston; Darwin isn't even mentioned. What's the deal with that?
Paul Fletcher: Well, again, just to be clear what the Prime Minister announced in January was an intention to commence negotiating a city deal in Hobart and a city deal in Geelong.
Adam Steer: Well, they're still on the website which Darwin isn't.
Paul Fletcher: Both of those cities are six to nine months behind where Darwin is in the process. So, we do go through a process with each city and each city deal is specific to the situation of each particular city. But I certainly make the point that the commitment was made by the Prime Minister halfway through last year in relation to a Darwin city deal. And since I've been in the portfolio, the Prime Minister has certainly made it clear to me that the Darwin city deal is a priority and that's one reason why I'm looking forward…
Adam Steer: So it's just an oversight that it's not on the Government website. Darwin isn't mentioned anywhere. Is that just an oversight? Will you rectify that?
Paul Fletcher: Let me give you an assurance that the status of the Darwin city deal is very much in line with the status of the Geelong city deal and the Hobart city deal, as deals that we have announced, that we intend to negotiate and in due course enter into, and we're in the negotiation phase.
I'll certainly go and make sure that the website aligns with that position, but I think you'll be able to see in many other places that the Commonwealth's position in relation to the Darwin city deal is that there's been a joint announcement by the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of an intention to negotiate and, in due course, enter into a city deal for Darwin. And since I've come into the portfolio just before Christmas the Prime Minister has made it clear to me that he wants me to get on with the job in relation to the Darwin city deal and that's why I'm looking forward to having some initial discussions in Darwin with the Chief Minister and the Lord Mayor. Certainly, that's not going to be the time when we'll be announcing an outcome, that will be my initial opportunity to have a face to face meeting with those two important, very important, stakeholders and as well as, I hope, other stakeholders. And we are at the stage, as I say, of identifying the potential elements, the potential measures in the city deal.
Obviously, Northern Territory Senator Nigel Scullion is a very important advocate for Darwin and the Northern Territory and I've been in discussions with him as well and we will- I'm looking forward to the chance, of course, to come to Darwin and discuss the Darwin city deal with a range of interested parties.
Adam Steer: Minister, you're the third person, the third Minister, I've spoken to since the city deal was announced- or the memorandum of understanding was announced. Why is that portfolio being handballed around so much?
Paul Fletcher: Well, since the announcement was made halfway through last year there's been one change in the portfolio. So, I'm not entirely sure- Well, I'm not entirely sure who you may have spoken to but there's been one change in the portfolio. It's not unusual that there's a change in ministerial portfolios. My predecessor, Angus Taylor, did excellent work in relation to Darwin and in relation other city deals and I'm obviously now in the position of being able to build on his work and, as I say…
Adam Steer: Townsville had their deal done within a month. What can we learn from them, why were they so efficient where we are not?
Paul Fletcher: Well, I think the key point here is that every city is different and city deals are customized to the circumstances of individual cities. So, as I say, while some city deals are negotiated more quickly than others, in other cases- as I've mentioned, the city deal for Western Sydney, we've been at work on that for 20 months or so and we're close to an outcome there, but it is important to take the time to get it right and that's certainly what I want to do in relation to Darwin. But, can I emphasize, the Prime Minister has made it clear to me that securing a city deal for Darwin is a priority and that's why I'm looking forward to coming to Darwin for some initial discussions with the Chief Minister and the Lord Mayor early next month and I hope to meet with other stakeholders while I'm there.
Adam Steer: Well, Minister, we do invite you into the studio after you've had those discussions with the Chief Minister and Lord Mayor. Good to talk to you today, I appreciate your time.
Paul Fletcher: No worries. Thanks, bye.