Cabinet decision highlights
This page has highlights from Cabinet decisions made in 1979.
Welfare services to remote areas
In July 1978 Cabinet had approved that the Department of Community Development would be responsible for the development and delivery of certain welfare services to remote communities.
This needed a large increase in field activities by departmental employees and an increase in the extent of consultations with Aboriginal communities.
It was recognised that the development and delivery of additional welfare services to remote areas would need more staff.
Training and employing local people was to be an important part welfare service provision as well as of economic, industrial and social development.
A submission presented to Cabinet in January 1979 proposed that two schemes be introduced to provide welfare services in remote communities.
The first was a scheme to create a pool of Aboriginal Community Worker positions within government.
The second was a Grant-in-Aid scheme to help Aboriginal communities employ their own community workers.
It was argued both schemes would increase Aboriginal employment and promote the development of skills within the Aboriginal population, as well as fostering local control over community affairs.
Cabinet approved the establishment of 20 Aboriginal Community Worker positions within the Department of Community Development and also the proposed Grant-in-Aid scheme.
This is archived as submission number 457 / decision number 532 of 2 January 1979.
Read the Cabinet decision 532 .
In January 1979 the Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation, the Hon Nick Dondas MLA, proposed a youth advisory council to advise the minister on youth affairs in the NT.
This would involve ongoing participation by, and discussions with, young people, and their direct participation in the decisions and policies of government.
The youth advisory council would also consider specific youth issues as referred to the council by the minister.
The government approved the council on 19 January 1979.
Government also committed to provide a youth program throughout the Territory.
On 21 March 1979, Cabinet noted a proposal to engage Australian Frontier Incorporated to survey youth needs.
Cabinet directed this to be completed within four months and with “particular emphasis on determining precisely what youth themselves want and not what youth oriented organisations think they should want or have.”
The results of the survey were intended to help government develop and put in place appropriate programs to meet the needs of young people in the Territory.
On 9 March 1979, Cabinet approved a pensioner concession scheme for the aged, invalid, widow and service pensioners and supporting parent beneficiaries.
The concessions were a $10 rebate on quarterly electricity accounts, up to $70 rebate on motor vehicle registration costs, a 50% rebate on Council rates, and a 50% rebate on water and sewerage rates (basic water rate only).
Cabinet also decided that the existing free travel bus scheme for Darwin pensioners should continue, but be broadened to include support parent beneficiaries and service pensioners.
Resettlement of refugees
Since 1975, the world had witnessed a large outflow of Indo-Chinese refugees.
By 1979, Australia had accepted 22,000 of these refugees and this number was expected to increase.
The Commonwealth Government encouraged the states and territories to share responsibility for the resettlement of the refugees.
The Chief Minister had supported the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs’ efforts towards resettlement. On 6 November 1978, Mr Everingham issued a press release showing that the NT was in discussions with the Department of Immigration to settle at least ten Vietnamese families who had already arrived in the Territory.
A joint working party of Commonwealth and NT officers was formed to make recommendations on initial accommodation, orientation and English language courses, primary schooling, employment prospects and longer term housing.
On 17 October 1979, Cabinet decided to adopt the following recommendations of the working party:
- the Quarantine Station at the proposed Coonawarra Industrial Estate to be used as initial accommodation for the first group of 80 refugees, subject to negotiation with the Commonwealth Department of Health
- up to four intakes of 80 persons to a total of 320 to be resettled in the first year depending on the rate of movement into the community
- immediate feasibility studies on whether the Quarantine Station and the Baptist Hostel could provide adequate facilities for refugees for nine to twelve months, pending the allocation of longer term housing
- a feasibility study on the construction of accommodation units for refugees
- the Department of Education to provide any additional education facilities needed
- joint arrangements for additional staffing requirements to meet the needs of the resettlement program
- a small committee appointed to oversee the resettlement program and report regularly on its progress.
Cabinet also decided that before these recommendations were put in place, the NT and Commonwealth governments should agree on financial responsibilities for the program.
In the 1970s, the NT, New South Wales and Tasmania were the only jurisdictions that allowed members of the public to let off fireworks, and then only on certain occasions.
The Territory allowed public use of fireworks on 5 November each year as a celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. In April 1979, the Minister for Mines and Energy put forward a submission to change fireworks day from 5 November to 1 July and that the proposed new date also be called 'Self-Government Day'.
The Minister argued that a November celebration was considered inappropriate as it was based on an old English custom and was not recognised anywhere else in Australia.
There were also practical considerations put forward in support of the change, including reducing fire risk and having the displays during the tourist season.
Cabinet declined to approve the proposal at that time, although the change was destined to occur in the future.
Government insurance office
To manage the insurance of Government risks and a centralised compulsory third party insurance scheme, on 2 January 1979, Cabinet approved the creation of a Government Insurance Office (GIO) to provide all forms of general insurance, including for Government departments and authorities.
Cabinet decided that the new GIO should not initially enter any field other than Third Party and Workmen’s Compensation and that a further Cabinet submission be prepared to make recommendations about a staged entry into the general insurance field.
The new organisation would be established by legislation as a statutory corporation outside the public service and was expected to conduct its operations along normal commercial lines.
Cabinet decided that the GIO would start business on 1 July 1979.
In April 1979, a submission was put before Cabinet on the development of library services for the Territory. This included the establishment of a State Reference Library and a State Archive.
In June 1978, the Cabinet member for Community Development was given Cabinet approval to begin discussions with local government authorities on the possibility of a handover of library functions.
To help develop a library services model in the NT, the Director-General of the National Library provided a report on the principles that might be followed by government.
The report recommended a conglomerate Library / Archive Service under a statutory authority and with appropriate legislation.
Advice was also sought from the Director of the Commonwealth Archives and the State Librarian of Western Australia.
Cabinet gave in-principle endorsement to the development of NT Government Libraries and Archival Services. It approved the devolution of public library functions to local authorities subject to their agreement.
In September 1978, a local filmmaker had suggested the Territory Government establish its own film corporation.
The South Australian Film Corporation heard of this suggestion and submitted a proposal to the Government as to how it might progress this initiative.
At the Government’s invitation, Film Australia also submitted a proposal.
With a view to promoting the investment, trade and tourism potential of the NT overseas and in Australia, the Government considered the two proposals for film and audio-visual material.
It was also thought that film production would encourage public awareness of the NT and promote a sense of ‘belonging’ among Territorians.
It was also hoped that it would help develop understanding of the cultural differences and problems of individual ethnic groups and create a medium for two-way communication between Aboriginal communities and the NT Government.
Cabinet approved the expenditure of $32,000 on an initial major film project with Film Australia.
Based on advice provided by Film Australia, Cabinet authorised the establishment of a committee to coordinate and rationalise NT Government film and audio-visual production, including deciding priorities from requests submitted annually by departments and arranging contracts for all film and audio-visual production.
McArthur River Mine Project
In 1979, Government continued its focus on the development of the mining industry.
In July 1979 Mount Isa Mines Limited submitted a comprehensive feasibility and environmental report on a proposed mine near McArthur River in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Following research and assessment by a government working group, on 7 November 1979 Cabinet considered a submission on the development of this mine, but decided more information was needed.
Cabinet directed that a consulting firm be commissioned to independently assess the metallurgical, financial and associated aspects of the McArthur River zinc, lead and silver mining enterprise, with recommendations for the terms and conditions of an agreement for the development of the mine.
This document is archived as submission number 817 / decision number 949 of 7 November 1979.
Previously uncontrolled exploitation by slaughter in the wild had put both of the Australian indigenous crocodile species in danger of extinction. So the NT, together with Queensland and Western Australia, adopted a policy of total protection.
In November 1977, Cabinet approved in principle the establishment of a commercial crocodile farm and requested the then Cabinet Member for Resources and Health to report back with a firm proposal on how this could be done.
The matter was investigated by the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Department of Industrial Development (later to become the Department of Primary Production) and a consultant with experience of crocodile farming in Rhodesia was commissioned to provide expert advice.
The consultancy report found “the prognosis for commercial farming was extremely gloomy”, but it did provide several options for government consideration.
While a later evaluation by the Department of Primary Production demonstrated that crocodylus porosis (saltwater crocodile) would be the more profitable animal to use, information received later indicated that sufficient numbers of breeders could be trapped only at very great expense while crocodylus johnstoni (freshwater crocodile) in adequate numbers were able be trapped at nominal expense during current field research.
Cabinet was also informed of work which had been done by Graham Webb on “The Status, Conservation and Management of World Crocodilians, and an Assessment of the Potential for Commercial Exploitation of Crocodiles in Australia”.
Cabinet requested the immediate identification of areas of land suitable for farming, the preparation of guidelines for persons to tender for the establishment of farms, advertising for interested parties to establish farms in the Territory, and an approach to appropriate Land Councils to ascertain their level of interest in such an enterprise.
This document is archived as submission number 727 / decision number 840 of 5 September 1979.
In October 1979, to encourage development and respond to a growing demand for smaller rural leases, the Government commissioned changes to the Crown Lands Act to allow a wider range of uses on rural land.
Cabinet also approved changes to allow the quick conversion of Agricultural Leases to Miscellaneous Leases to make way for the development of market gardens, orchard plantations, vineyards, poultry farms, piggeries, animal stud farms, holding or pasturing paddocks, facilities ancillary to abattoirs etc. as a rural industry initiative.
Submission number 574 to Cabinet in April 1979 noted public concern about a potential energy supply crisis due either to a shortage of crude oil in production against growing demand, OPEC pricing policies and/or interruptions to supplies due to political conflict in the Middle East.
The submission noted there seemed little doubt the world was going to have to adjust to more expensive energy in general, particularly aviation and automotive liquid fuels, at least until practical substitutes became available through technology change.
The submission suggested that the proper role for government was to provide the pre-conditions to encourage energy producers and consumers to make appropriate changes.
This pointed to the need for a comprehensive energy policy in the NT, particularly in view of the Territory’s almost total dependence on liquid petroleum fuels.
Cabinet accepted the recommendation of the submission to establish a broad-based Northern Territory Energy Council to advise the government on measures to make sure energy reserves consumption and production patterns that were best suited to the NT’s needs and resources.
After the Northern Territory Energy Council was established, Cabinet directed for an energy policy to be developed.
The submission to Cabinet on this matter noted the Territory’s dependence on imported petroleum placed it in a precarious situation, not only because of the economic repercussions of oil price rises, but also because of the vulnerability to embargo and supply shortfall situations.
A draft energy policy was provided with the submission. This covered possibilities such as alternative motor vehicle fuels, pollution control, efficient design of buildings, solar air conditioning and water heating, a rail link, exploration and development of the Territory’s own oil, coal and gas resources, hydro-electricity from the Ord River Dam and from Territory rivers, and the exploration of wind, tidal and other unconventional energy resources.
Cabinet decided more work was needed before it made a final decision. Cabinet established a working party to develop a comprehensive energy policy for consideration early the following year.
Uranium mining rehabilitation
With self-government, the NT agreed to accept responsibility for regulating the mining and milling of uranium in the NT.
The agreement meant that the NT Government had the power to enforce the most important recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry.
The Territory had concerns about the regulation of environmental aspects of mining and milling, how this would be enforced, and what conditions should be placed on the Joint Venturers.
On 2 January 1979, Cabinet approved the proposed legislation for environmental regulation of uranium development and directed that the legislation be prepared before the end of January 1979.
The Uranium Mining (Environment Control) Act 1979 was subsequently passed by the Legislative Assembly and came into effect on 10 May 1979.
Based on the recommendations from a report on feral animals in the NT, in July 1979 Cabinet approved a proposal to remove and relocate up to 1,000 head of Bali Cattle from the Cobourg Peninsula to other sites within Australia.
The cattle had been introduced to the peninsula around 130 years previously and reasons for the removal of the cattle included the possible risk to Australian livestock of endemic or exotic disease and the potential damage caused by the presence of uncontrolled cattle in an area of environmental conservation.
It was recommended the animals be relocated to other suitable places where the genotype could be preserved as the animals in question represented the only breeding herd in Australia apart from a small number of animals at the Coastal Plains Research Station south-east of Darwin.
Further, local research indicated the cattle had some production attributes that could be used to advantage when crossbred with other cattle species.
The cost of capture and transport to Darwin of up to 300 head each year was estimated to be $40,000 and it was intended that these costs would be recovered in respect of those cattle which were to be supplied to outside institutions.
New suburbs in Darwin
Based on a population projection compiled by the Department of Lands and Housing, it was expected that the population of Darwin would increase from 53,334 in June 1978 to 61,500 in 1982.
To cater for this rise, it was estimated that an equivalent total of 1,470 single housing allotments would be needed.
The Leanyer sub-division had already undergone preliminary design and allowed for a yield of between 820 to 1,000 lots.
Cabinet approved that the Karama subdivision be programmed for construction with a tender target date of April 1979 and the Leanyer subdivision be advanced to go to tender in June 1980 to meet the demand for land expected by the end of 1981.
Looking ahead to longer-term development and population growth in the Darwin area, government departments and consultants had been conducting geomorphological, environmental and planning studies in Darwin East.
A report 'Darwin East in the Regional Context' was presented to Cabinet in March 1979.
This considered growth in the Darwin region and recommended a strategy of regional expansion.
Cabinet approved a strategy of longer-term regional development around Port Darwin to Cox Peninsula and towards Bynoe Harbour, and the development of Darwin East as a town, with Stage 1 to contain approximately 25,000 people.
Cabinet also commissioned studies by relevant departments to look into transport links and an all-weather shortened road to Cox Peninsula / Bynoe Harbour.
New rail terminal in Alice Springs
In Alice Springs the community was divided about the best location for the new Tarcoola to Alice Springs standard gauge railway terminal in the town.
The two options were the existing town site, which posed uncertain future urban development issues, and the MacDonnell Siding site, some 8km out of town.
The MacDonnell Siding site was preferred by the Town Planning Board, the Department of Lands and Housing and the Department of Transport and Works. Selecting this site would release 51 hectares of high value industrial, commercial and residential land close to the town centre, and there was “virtually unlimited potential” for rail-served industries at MacDonnell Siding.
The disadvantages of this site included the additional establishment costs to Australian National Rail (ANR), additional operating costs to the business sector and the need to relocate railway based business already established in the town.
The town site was preferred by ANR, the Alice Springs Tourist Promotion Association, the Chamber of Industry and the Cattlemen’s Association.
Net capital costs for the government of the MacDonnell Siding site were estimated at $835,000 and around $2 million in total.
Despite the submission recommending the MacDonnell Siding site, Cabinet supported the town site for the location of the new rail terminal facilities.
In April 1978, Cabinet endorsed guidelines for the planning of a new tourist village at Yulara.
A development plan was completed in December 1978 and was circulated throughout government and to interested parties, including the tourist industry generally.
The proposed village was of significance to tourism not only to the Territory, but to Australia generally.
Development of the plan had already been the subject of numerous investigations, committees of inquiry, reports and consideration by governments over the previous ten years.
Cabinet considered the plan and approved the commencement of the development of the tourist village, the construction of the NT component of the village, and the advancement of the proposed aerodrome and associated engineering works to the 1979/80 Capital Works Program.
This document is archived as submission number 566 / decision number 649 of 10 April 1979.
Coastal surveillance scheme
In April 1979, the Chief Minister, Paul Everingham, sought in principle approval from Cabinet to introduce a Coastal Surveillance Scheme in the NT using Aboriginal people in key reporting roles.
The Police Commissioner was in the process of developing a scheme that was to provide the NT Government with a Costal Surveillance Service which would complement the Commonwealth’s daily aerial surveillance program.
This was an opportunity for the Territory to help protect the integrity of its coastline and to also create employment opportunities for Aboriginal people living in remote coastal communities.
It was proposed to use existing police personnel at coastal police stations and supplement this by training Aboriginal people from other communities to scan the adjacent land, sea and air space on a formalised basis, to link with the existing police task force response mechanism.
Early consultation with Aboriginal communities had been met with an enthusiastic response to the proposal. Cabinet approved in principle the setting up of the Northern Territory Coastal Surveillance Service using police facilities and Aboriginal police aides, of which there were to be an additional ten positions created, and requested Treasury to take up with the Commonwealth Government the matter of funding the service.
In April 1979, to provide employment opportunities for school leavers and encourage recruitment into the Territory Police Force, Cabinet approved plans for a police cadet scheme to bridge the gap between the time young people left school and when they became eligible to join the police force at the age of 19.
The submission proposed a pilot exercise initially involving 12 cadets, who would be employed for a two or three year training course.
The training program was to cover all those functions which would let the cadets achieve the standard of skills needed to be constables in the police force.
It was suggested the scheme would be popular with parents and youth alike, would particularly help young Aboriginals who wanted to have a career in police work, and would foster police and Aboriginal relationships.