Chief Minister delivers $35m in new industry support, then quits

Brandon How

Northern Territory Chief Minister and Treasurer Michael Gunner delivered an NT budget on Tuesday with infrastructure support funding for advanced manufacturing and critical minerals processing before announcing his resignation, effective immediately.

Mr Gunner sensationally told legislators the delivery of the budget was his final act as leader, and that he would leave the post to spend more time with his family, including a new-born son.

Outgoing NT Chief Minister and Treasurer facing media following his resignation announcement

This comes after he committed the territory to $35 million in infrastructure support for advanced manufacturing, critical minerals processing, and hydrogen investments.

Holding back tears, Mr Gunner said he had been reflecting on his position in the Northern Territory government and wanted to spend more time with his family.

“Serving the territory as its Chief Minister has been one of the honours of my life. Tipped by only two things, meeting and marrying Kristy O’Brien and being a father,” he said.

“The birth of our second child the week before last confirmed something for me. My head and my heart are no longer here. They are at home.”

“I have grappled with this decision for some weeks, but welcoming little Nash into the world sealed the deal. There is never a perfect time to step back, to walk away to give other a go. But for me, my family this feels like the right time.”

Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison will be acting Premier until the territory’s parliamentary Labor party elects a new leader and new government can be sworn in.

The first $21 million is set aside to implement the recommendations of the Territory Economic Reconstruction report over five years. There is particular emphasis on capitalising on “manufacturing opportunities in low emissions petrochemicals, renewable hydrogen, minerals processing, and food-related processing”.

The report also highlighted four global industries that complement the territory’s strategic position. These are national security and defence, maritime, digital, and space. The Territory announced last September that it is hoping to expand its economy to $40 billion by 2030.

The budget also commits $14 million to accelerate development of marine and civil infrastructure at its Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct. The precinct is 1500 hectares and is intended to co-locate energy, carbon capture use and storage, petrochemicals, minerals processing, hydrogen, and advanced manufacturing.

In his budget speech Mr Gunner said that Middle Arm has the potential to be the ‘Mecca’ for advanced manufacturing in Australia.

“This is not pie in the sky as some political players here would have you believe. This is real. The Commonwealth knows it is real. That is why it is investing real dollars in Middle Arm, for marine, road and energy infrastructure,” Mr Gunner said.

“The Middle Arm precinct can unlock more than $16 billion of private investment. It can support up to 20,000 new jobs. We do not want to wait around for it to happen; we want this to happen as soon as possible.”

Supporting this is nearly $200 million for residential and industrial land across Greater Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, and Tennant Creek. This includes the construction of residential lots and services to accommodate town growth.

The federal budget 2022-23 has already committed almost $2.6 billion to the territory through the Energy Security and Regional Development Plan. Of this commitment, $2 billion is going to the Middle Arm Sustainable Development precinct, $440 million for regional resource logistics hubs, and $110 million to complete Tanami Highway.

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